Your human is a reader! He/she zips through fairly challenging text with few errors, excellent fluency, and even a little expression to make things exciting. Then it comes to retelling, discussion, and comprehension questions. Uh oh. Your child draws a blank. What was the story about again? What happened first? Who did what? How do I feel about it? Eeeek. “I donno Dad?”
Decoding (phonemic awareness – sounding out the words), fluency (speed, intonation, accuracy, smoothness) and comprehension (understanding and connecting to what is read) are three separate aspects of reading. Comprehension, or gathering meaning and personal connection from text, is exactly WHY we read to begin with. Let’s talk about a few easy tips to help your child hone this very important skill:
For Little Ones (Kindergarten – Grade 3ish) Learning to Read:
• Start with a “Picture Walk”: Browse the book BEFORE beginning to read it. Talk about the pictures. “What do you think this book will be about?”
• Retell/Story Elements: After you have read the story, have your child retell the events in order. Ask him/her about the setting (where the story takes place) and the characters.
• Connections: After reading, ask a few of the following questions. Make sure to give your child some think time before prompting.
“What did this story remind you of?” “Who was your favourite character?” “How did you feel at the beginning?” “How did you feel at the end?” “What was the problem?” “Was the problem solved? How?” “What is the big idea?” “Is the writer trying to teach us something?”
For Older Ones (Grade 4ish and up) Reading to Learn:
• Text Features (Non Fiction): Higher-level reading materials often do not include illustrations on each page. BEFORE reading, check out the text features: “Is there a Table of Contents?” “Are there any diagrams, graphics, or illustrations?” “Are there bold words?” “Are there headings?” “Does the text include a glossary?” Check ‘em all out!
• Stimulate Prior Knowledge: “What do you already know about this topic?” “What do you want to learn?”
• Develop Questions: As your child is actively reading, encourage him/her to stop as needed and jot down questions he/she has formulated.
• Vocabulary/Key Words: Encourage your child to pick out any words he/she is unsure about, or words that seem like they may be very important. Take time to figure out what those words mean, and how they are relevant to the text.
• The BIG Idea: What does all this all mean? After reading, ask a few of the following questions. Make sure to give your child some think time before prompting.
“What did this text remind you of?” “What did you like/dislike about this text?” “What was the problem?” “Was the problem solved? How?” “What is the big idea?” “What is the author’s point of view?” “What new information about this topic did you learn?”
Written by Kimberly Desautels, Wildflowers’ Educational Strategist/Tutor