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Kids Fiction Chapter Books That Improve Vocabulary By Defining Words Within the Text

Updated on January 18, 2019

Reading is a great way to improve a child's vocabulary because it exposes them to many unfamiliar words. When parents read to kids they can define the meaning of these new words or kids can figure out the definition based on the context. Of course, another option is checking a dictionary. The problem is kids will often skip over an unfamiliar word instead of taking the time to figure out the meaning. The good news is that there are some books available that provide definitions within the story. The best thing about these kinds of books is that they can expose children to more challenging words than other books aimed at a particular age group precisely because they explain the meaning within the text. The bad news is that I haven't been able to find very many book that do provide definitions within the story. These are some you can look into.

Martha Speaks Series

The Martha Speaks chapter book series is a great example of this. Here's an excerpt from Martha Speaks: A Pup's Tale where the word autobiography is defined within the text itself.

"You're going to write your autobiography?" asks Truman.

"No, my life story," says Martha.

"That's what an autobiography is−a book someone writes about her own life."

Martha is a dog who has an unusual gift. She can talk. Sometimes she's unsure of the meaning of words and the people around her have to help her out. The books are fun and educational. The Martha Speaks chapter book series is aimed at 6 to 9 year old children, but should also be appealing to 4 and 5 year olds. Each book is about 90 pages of colorful pictures and short chapters. There are 14 books in the series. There are also picture books aimed at younger children.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket is a series of 13 chapter books aimed at 8 to 12 year olds. The books often define words or explain the meaning of expressions. Sometimes the definitions are direct like this example.

"...he had read so many books that he frequently used words like "compatriots," which is a fancy word for "friends."

Other times they're more indirect like this example.

"...but since then the count has pursued them with dogged determination, a phrase which here means "everywhere they went, thinking up treacherous schemes and wearing disguises to try to fool the three children.""

However, not every word is defined. In this example, treacherous and schemes aren't defined. Not every challenging word is defined, but many are. There are 13 books in the series.

The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Story

The great thing about The Pied Piper of Hamelin: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Story is that it's only 99 cents or free if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. The story is a humorous retelling set in a modern day Hamelin. While the book is aimed at younger kids, approximately 5 to 9 years old, it defines several challenging words. Here's an example.

"Ben and Frank announced their upcoming summer visit to Hamelin in the most nonchalant of tones. Nonchalant means to act like something is no big deal. But Ben and Frank knew a visit to Hamelin was a very big deal."

Fiction books that provide definitions within the story are a great way to improve vocabulary
Fiction books that provide definitions within the story are a great way to improve vocabulary

Do you know any children's books that provide definitions within the story?

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    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 

      8 months ago from Queensland Australia

      As a writer of some children's books I found this very interesting, especially the fact that there are not many that provide definitions within the text. Thanks for sharing.


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