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   Sometimes we underestimate the power of big words on our little kids. For several years I wrote best-selling science texts¹ for elementary kids with an interesting proviso:

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   Use, whenever possible, a vocabulary one school year below the level textbook you’re writing for (ex.: a 6th grade science text should be written at a 5th grade level, etc.²).

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   Why?  Science instruction shouldn’t be handicapped by poor reading ability.

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   A worthy objection. But…but we should never underestimate the power of a big word rightly aimed…

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For more use the DOOR:

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   Here’s a Facebook post sent to me a few days ago. It’s about something that occurred about 38 years ago–and still vividly lives in Tanya’s memory. (Be sure to read the endnotes.):

   There is a whiteboard on my door at work. Every day (almost), I list a “Word of the Day,” its part of speech, and definition. (They actually give me a hard time now if I don’t put up a new one!) Imagine my glee when I see that today’s word from Dictionary.com is “obstreperous” — a word I learned many moons ago as I arrived to babysit at your house. Young Master Ethan4 informed me that I was in trouble that day. When I inquired why, he said, “because Daddy says I’m obstreperous today!” …. When I put him to bed that night, I had to look it up. LOLOLOLOLOL!!! I’ve never forgotten that word.

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   ¹ A big qualification is needed here. In the middle and late 1970′s I was one of a 4-person writing team that wrote (for royalties) 4 of the 6 elementary elementary hardback textbooks Science: Understanding Your Environment (for grades 3, 4, 5, and 6, including teachers’ editions). For a year or more it was the best-selling science series in the U. S.  We worked hard to make science understandable, interesting, and readable. Our lab exercises, many of which I designed, were pretty cool. When for 50 cents I recently bought a copy of one of my books with my name on the cover 3 years ago at a yard sale, it brought back fond memories of those busy days.

   ² Writing science with a simple vocabulary that isn’t babyish isn’t easy. I’ve always advocated using simple words though some may think I’ve forgotten that. It’s a fine art that takes time. This was done in a day when there were state-approved word lists for different grade levels, and bean counters to see that the right percentage of minorities were represented in art that accompanied “lab” exercises. Of note: This was done in a day when in illustration that “Girls watched while boys did things.” We corrected that.

   ³ We’ve slightly edited this, omitting Tanya’s last name, for example. We thank her so much for sending this.

   4  “Master Ethan,” who now lives halfway around the world, and who I talked to a few hours ago via computer, says he remembers this experience vividly. “I was about 3,” he told me, “and I loved the word and never forgot it.” This was about 38 years ago. I will only add to this two things” (1) He had earned the appellation, and (2) He says he’s passing this tradition on to his 2 bi-lingual daughters.