A criticism I sometimes receive about poems and stories in progress is that the vocabulary is too sophisticated. The words don’t match my target reading level. As a writer for youngest and middle grade readers, I agree that we need to keep our readers’ ages in mind when forming sentences and plotting drafts so they will appeal to their interests and abilities. But, I would argue, there is nothing wrong with infusing our stories with rich language. Kids thrive on mind-stretching opportunities (at least mine do) and a smattering of well-chosen, interesting words not only sharpens reading skills, but develops a deep-rooted appreciation of the nuances and beauty of the English language.
My son, for example, actively seeks out new vocabulary. When he was little, we read book after book together. “What does that mean?” was his favorite question. Once he understood the meaning, he’d hold on to that new word like it was gold, joyfully trying it out again and again. His room was no longer “clean”. It was “pristine”. We never just “talked”. We “chit-chatted”. At night time, we “slumbered”. And rocks at our house were never just “rocks”. They were “pumice” , “obsidian” , “granite” and “quartz”. That thirst for new words propelled him to keep reading.
Now eleven, my son still reads voraciously, and he’s still keen on finding new words – so much so, that he now plasters his books with post-its to tag the new words he finds. And how do I know he’s loving the quest? I know because, like me, he now infuses his speech and writing with ear-tickling and page-popping words.