In the ’50s and ’60s, my sister, May, and I had received a boxed Scrabble game by Selchow and Righter.

As children, we taught ourselves how to play the game using the rules on the box top and a World Book Dictionary as our reference. Our parents had immigrated from China and were, at the time, still learning English. 

So, naturally, it was up to my sister and me to motivate ourselves to not only learn the language but to continually expand our vocabulary enough to compete in our favorite board games.  

It took 40+ years, but our journey has finally brought us to playing Scrabble at a competitive level. By the year 2000, we found places to play our favorite game online. 

Yahoo Games Literati was the place my daughter, Lindsay, and I hung out. It was a consortium of casual players and those that would go on to blossom into national champions. Over time, we progressed to playing individual games and participated in ISC (Internet Scrabble Club) tournaments.

We have grown to enjoy many games over the years, but Scrabble has been a longstanding favorite because of our shared love of words.

Fast Forward

November 2011 saw the birth of Lea, Lindsay’s daughter, and our renewed hope for the next generation of Scrabble players.  

By that time, Lindsay and I were members of the National Scrabble Association (soon to be the North American Scrabble Association) and had been attending and then directing the local Scrabble Club since 2003.  

Of course, when it was safe for her to do so, we carted Lea in her car seat right into the club alongside Lindsay and me.  

Lea grew up to the sounds of rattling tiles and shouts of Challenge! and Bingo!

Baby Lea at Scrabble Club

She learned her ABCs like most children and was reading before many in her age group. At age 3, she was tested for entry to Metairie Academy for Advanced Studies, an outstanding public school dedicated to nurturing our gifted children.  

Lindsay has since flourished at Metairie Academy and is getting ready to enter 4th grade.

As she grew, I watched with wonder the development of youth Scrabblers across the country. We looked on as many of these children grow from pre-teens into extraordinarily talented adult wordsmiths. 

Would our Lea enjoy a lifelong love of words as myself, my sister, and my daughter have?

How could we involve Lea in the Scrabble scene?

Is it possible to fully integrate into the competitive circuit when much of the action took place on the East Coast and in the Northeast? 

And then

Austin Shin, himself a child Scrabbler turned World competitor, entered into our lives.  

While Tim and I had met Austin at Nationals in Buffalo and Reno, our first encounter as a family was in January 2016 when Austin came to compete in the Crescent City Cup Scrabble tournament.

Austin and Lea having beignets

As Lindsay and Austin courted and eventually married, our focus on Scrabble intensified. Lindsay learned study techniques that elevated her game, and we cheered as Austin competed in international competitions.

In 2017, Lea and her sister witnessed Lindsay, Austin, and me competing in the North American Scrabble Championship in our hometown of New Orleans.  

Lindsay and Austin won their respective divisions as we were cheered on by the kids.

Lindsay, Austin, and kids at 2017 Nationals

Metairie Academy Scrabble Club

In the Fall of 2019, after consulting with Cornelia Guest and others, we began teaching the 1st thru 4th graders of Metairie Academy Scrabble Club the basics of the game. Our first grader Penny and second-grader Lea were active participants.  

The semester ended with a small tourney with awards and certificates.  

The Spring semester was cut short by the Covid pandemic.

School Scrabblers

After learning two-letter words, the class practiced anagramming with book exercises and word apps. They then applied their knowledge to actually playing on the board.

Lea continued through the summer of 2020 by learning words on Aerolith and playing on the board with mom. Eventually, she became active on Scrabble GO, playing in challenges, Arena, and individual games.  

With 2021 came, where the adults began playing online clubs. Lea plays daily games with me while being coached in in-game strategy by mommy Lindsay and “baba” Austin.

Lea’s love of words is shown in more than just her love of the game Scrabble. She is also a voracious reader. By the time she was 8 years old, Lea had finished reading all the Harry Potter books!


Despite the pandemic being a worldwide emergency and ordeal, there have been unintended benefits.  

Pre-pandemic, our Scrabble Club included our regular locals who played with us at our regular gathering spot, Reginelli’s. But playing online, as we have been forced to do, has allowed us to include players from Mississippi, Louisiana, California, Arizona, and Toronto.  

Indeed, as the pandemic seems to be waning, we are considering meeting again in person. We are addressing how we can still include others outside our local membership.

Online playing has opened up the possibility of Lea playing against other children her age. 

Online tournaments organized by Cornelia Guest, Judy Cole, and others are made available to children across the country. Lea, who is now nine years old, is looking forward to her first competitive experience in COSY (Classic Online Scrabble for Youths) this coming weekend.  

So to answer the initial question, “How to Develop Vocabulary in Children Using Scrabble?”  

I think the answer to this might be to share your own life experience and show her your delight in wordplay and competition.

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