Prized among zoologists for its sesquipedalian attributes, the Miscellaneous Vocabulary is rare indeed. Once quite common, its habitat has diminished along with the public's knowledge of its existence. Our small preserve is doing its part to keep this fine creature alive and healthy.
Words are acquired at a surprisingly rapid rate. It's estimated that, between the ages of 6 and 10, children learn about 20 new words a day. Given a steady rate of growth over five years, that's about 36,500 words. In our technological age, a lot of those words are fairly specific (microwave, iTunes, PC, and the like all count as words), but that's still rapid vocabulary expansion.
Most of this learning takes place organically. Kids hear words and repeat them, read them in books, see them on signs or magazine covers, etc. Many parents have found that monitoring this progress as much as possible is the best way to teach new words. For instance, having kids write down every word they don't know when reading can help them learn words they'd normally just skip over.
A lot of vocabulary worktexts are simply lists of words with definitions and some written work to reinforce what's been learned. The Spelling DooRiddles from Critical Thinking Press are more unique, offering vocabulary-building riddles for students to solve. Analogies are logic-based exercises designed to aid SAT vocabulary knowledge. Dr. Funster's Word Benders are basically anagrams to expand students' vocabulary.
Some vocabulary supplements are just plain fun, while maintaining a strong educational element. Vocabulary Cartoons teaches an often boring subject through comic illustrations; Rummy Roots and More Roots are vocab-building card games; Painless Vocabulary is exactly what it sounds like, offering humorous text and exercises for middle and high schoolers.
For teachers, Language and Thinking for Young Children by Ruth Beechick offers a great first-year course designed to expand vocabulary and critical thinking skills. Jensen's Vocabulary uses Greek and Latin roots to teach English words. These aren't so much stand-alone books as great supplements to help you work vocabulary instruction into other subjects throughout the school day.
Having a large vocabulary is important for being able to read a variety of material, and for being able to communicate effectively. Making vocab expansion part of your everyday routine will make it more palatable for kids, and less stressful for everyone. These resources can help with that, and some of them can even make learning new words fun and exciting.