Whether your elementary school student is an avid reader or avoids reading at all costs, it is essential that you promote reading comprehension skills. The best way to monitor and develop your child's ability to understand text is to be a part of his/her reading experience. It can be as simple as sitting down with your child and talking about what he/she is reading.
"The whole purpose for reading is to understand what you read, and comprehension is one of the most important skills that we can help children develop," says Richard E. Bavaria, Ph.D., Vice President of Education for Sylvan Learning Center.
Discussion actively engages young readers and encourages them to pay close attention to what they are reading. While your child is still in the beginning stages of developing his/her reading comprehension skills, being present and involved gives you the opportunity to answer any questions he/she may have.
In order to encourage reading comprehension, it is important that your child think about what he/she is reading before, during, and after actually reading a specific passage.
Prompting a discussion before your child starts reading a particular book can warm up his/her critical thinking skills and spark an interest in the text. The discussion largely will be based on predictions, assumptions, and opinions in order to get him/her thinking and talking about what he/she is about to read. Here are a few suggestions for what to ask your child:
- What do you already know about the reading topic?
- What other books remind you of this one?
- What questions do you have about this book before reading it?
- What would you like the book to talk about?
- What do you think is going to happen in the book?
Reading comprehension involves knowing how to approach and handle challenges in a text. Beginning readers often give up quickly if they are faced with a book's unknown features or unfamiliar words. When reading with your child, encourage him/her to ask questions and be willing to explore the things that are posing difficulties. Here are a few tips:
- Be sure to point out the structural features of a book or an article. Describe their purposes and answer any questions your child may have. Structural features include chapter headings, photographs or illustrations and captions.
- Encourage your child to skip unknown words and infer their meanings based on the context of the passage. By doing this, students avoid getting stuck on one word and continue reading in order to understand the whole body of text.
- Once your child has grasped the main themes of the reading, have him/her go back and identify any unknown words. Help him/her use a dictionary to learn their meanings, and encourage him/her to use these new words in conversation.
Having your child discuss something he/she has just read will help him/her internalize and retain the information. The process of discussion and review will improve your child's ability to remember the broad concepts of the text including theme and structure. After repeated post-reading discussions, your child will be more confident about his/her reading comprehension skills and will be comfortable having reading conversations with teachers and peers.
"When we talk about stories and books, we are showing our children through example that reading is very important to us as adults," Dr. Bavaria says. "We do them a double favor when we discuss the books with them." Here are possible questions you can ask once he/she has finished reading:
- Can you tell me about what you just read? Can you draw a picture about the story?
- What were the major themes of the book or the author's message?
- How was this reading different from other books in the past?
- What did you like about this reading and why? What did you dislike and why?
"It is also a good idea to have your child ask the questions after reading a story," Dr. Bavaria says. "We can tell how well the student understands the story by the quality of questions he/she asks."
By Renee Sarnowski