It is a proven fact that people accomplish more and do more when they enjoy what they are doing. This is also true when it comes to learning. To be sure, learning should be fun.
This is the theme for an exciting new copyrighted word game that I am developing titled, “Mr. Jim’s Word Game.” This is a vocabulary building program that I believe, in time, will be marketed all across the country.
The reason I feel so strongly about the need for this product is that I have spent the past 50 years in the “word” business and have come to understand why many of our nation’s schools are struggling. At one time the United States of America led the world in test scores for reading, math and science, but no more. Today we rank 18th out of 21 industrialized nations in these important benchmarks.
Here are a couple of insights as to why this is true. Several years ago a major university gave the members of its graduating class an English vocabulary test, and then tracked them for the next 20 years. They found that after 20 years the students who had known the greatest number of words were in the top income group. Those students who had known the fewest number of words were in the lowest income group. What was amazing is that there was not one exception. Here is a big part of the reason this was true. In 1955, 81 percent of parents in America read to or with their children. Today, that number is 21 percent.
The primary reason many of our schools are failing is because far too many students start to school without a good vocabulary base. To be sure, words are vital to learning and to our future success. This is because we use words to think with, and to speak with, and to write with – and for everything involved in the communication process.
When he spoke to our Bookcase Awards Ceremony a few years back, School Superintendent Dr. Greg Murry pointed out that children from low-income families have a vocabulary of about 2,900 words, while children from affluent homes have twice that many.
In 1980, when I first started writing a weekly radio program, I did not know that many words. That has changed, however, after 40 years of writing a radio program, a newspaper column, making 1,700 speeches and writing 10 books. I counted it up some time back, and have now written or spoken several million words.
With God’s help, here is my plan to improve the vocabulary for pre-school children all across America. This can be used by parents and teachers alike. I have identified products from all across society and have taken their photos and pasted them on large sheets of poster board. Then I have gone back and identified each one, recorded the words on a sheet of paper, printed the words in large type, laminated the words, and cut them apart.
After putting all the words in a basket, the children will draw a word and match it up with the photo. Here is where the teacher or the parent comes into play. Each word – some are very large – can be identified, then pronounced, then spelled and then defined. This will take some time but not nearly as long as it took me.
I have also developed a long list of “concept” words that cannot be seen in a photo but can be explained and defined to increase the child’s knowledge and understanding. What is so exciting is that this process is fun, and each child will be encouraged to find other words that add to the program. In time we will have children begin school who are truly excited and ready to learn.
Jim Davidson is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and Founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in the Log Cabin Democrat in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states.