Many parents have known the challenges of developing their child’s vocabulary, especially in preparation for the 11+. Even for the most engaged student, memorising a list can be a dull experience, and often leads to only a superficial understanding of what all these words actually mean.


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That’s why I was excited to pick up Tangled Time, the first book in The Cadwaladr Quests series, designed specifically as a vocabulary aid. On the top half of each page, the gripping story proceeds. Then on the bottom half, the reader is provided with definitions, synonyms and antonyms of each of the trickier words. Nearly 3,000 words are defined in this way, and the definitions themselves are well-written. 

The book follows the story of Claire and her best friend Ben, ordinary children who are drawn into a fantastical world after Claire receives a mysterious letter. The story is compelling and fast-paced, let down only by the quality of the writing at times: the need to cram in vocabulary sometimes leads to awkward, verbose sentences, such as “The milk she had gulped earlier was long since digested, and now ravenous, she fantasised about food.” Parents reading this with their children may want to emphasise that there’s more to good writing than using complex vocabulary. 

With that caveat, I feel this could be a valuable teaching aid, and I look forward to the next in the series.

How to use Tangled Time with your child and improve their vocabulary

The author recommends that children read this book for the first time with an adult, and I concur. You’ll soon be able to see how your child is getting on with the vocabulary included, and whether you can leave them to finish it by themselves. 

Alongside reading the book and quizzing your child on the vocabulary included, you could use it for further activities to improve their vocabulary. I like to encourage students to choose ten words around a particular theme and make up their own story that uses them. For instance, a haunted house story might use creaked, dilapidated and spectral, while a fantasy adventure story might use galloped, claymore and warlockAlternatively, if your child has engaged strongly with the characters in Tangled Time, they could write a short creative writing piece of what they think could happen next, to carry on the story. This gives them the opportunity to include lots of new vocabulary that they’ve learned.

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