Parents are a child's first and most important teacher. What happens in the home in regards to education has an enormous impact on a child's reading success. During the first few years of school (KG – Grade 4), teachers are developing your child's reading skills. They are providing and teaching skills that will enable your child to become a skilled reader. However, that doesn't mean that what happens in school is enough. Learning to read takes practice and more practice and even more practice – much more than a child can get in a school day.
So, how can children get more reading opportunities and extra guidance? Simply put, they can get these at home. Read the tips below and implement them to help your child get the reading comprehension help they need to become excellent readers. Not only that, these tips and activities can develop a love for reading.
The good news is that it's not difficult. Implementing a few simple strategies and activities can have a major impact on your child's reading comprehension success.
If you were going to buy and hang new curtains in the family room, you wouldn't just choose some fabric, buy a curtain rod, then go to work. You would need to do some planning first. You would need to be aware of the size of the window, what kinds of materials are best, and what tools you need to do a proper job. You might even discuss the process with a professional or a curtain maker. The point is that you would educate yourself by gathering all the information and training you need to end up with a successful project. Helping your child develop good comprehension skills also involves the same type of planning. In other words, you need to get all the materials and tools your child needs to be successful in reading, no matter what type of book it is.
Let's take for example that your child is going to read a social studies book about community helpers. Before reading the book, first talk to your child about what a community is and who are the important people in a community. Help them name some community helpers and how they benefit the neighborhood or town they live in. Talk about some of the community helpers you both have seen, e.g. police officers, firefighters, postal workers, bus drivers, etc. You could even go the extra mile to take your child to the post office or a fire department and let them see, first-hand, what they do. Sound a little extreme? Not at all – teachers do it all the time. They invite people to the classroom or they might even organize a school trip. If you try a few of these steps, you'll see that they can go a long way in comprehension development.
Some parents might say that their children only watch educational or child-friendly programs. Isn't that enough to help them with comprehension?
Studies show that children are exposed to a larger variety of words in children's books that are read to them than from what they hear on TV. That means anything you read to them will enlarge their vocabulary much more than conversations heard on television.
When you read books that are interesting to them, both reading and writing vocabularies increase. That's because if they have heard a word before in context, then when it's presented in the classroom they'll be able to recognize it with greater comprehension.
Good readers are likely to create visual images in their heads while they are reading. It's all part of the comprehension process. While you are reading to your child, think out loud about the images you see or the questions that may arise. That means explaining the ideas, pictures, questions, and connections that go through your mind as you read a passage.
Here's an example of thinking aloud: "The title of this book is Jacki and the Bat. There is a picture of a baseball bat on the cover so that tells me that the bat is not the kind of bat that lives in a cave. I wonder what the bat is for? I wonder what Jacki did with the bat? I need to read ahead and find out. Oh, on the next page it says, "I hit the ball so hard, I'm afraid it may go over the fence and into Mrs. Monty's yard." That tells me that the ball may not only go into Mrs. Monty's yard, but maybe it'll hit a window and break the glass. Mrs. Monty is going to be really mad." I have to read on to find out more.
Have your child not only thinking aloud, but also reading aloud. This forces them to go slower, which gives them more time to process what they read, which improves reading comprehension. Plus, they are not only seeing the words, they're hearing them, too. It can also be fun to take turns reading with your child. You can model good reading by changing the tone of your voice to reflect surprise, anger, question, and happiness. When your child hears you read, then they can improve their reading. Changing your tone can also help with comprehension. Here is an example of how the WAY you read can make a big difference in meaning.
"Watch out for bats!" Saying this with great emotion means that there may be bats overhead and there may be immediate danger.
"Watch out for bats?" Reading this sentence by raising your voice at the end means that there is some confusion as to what to watch out for, or possibly fear that there are bats nearby.
"Watch out for bats." Saying this with no additional emotion means that the speaker is giving a simple warning or advice.
Model the expressions and make sure your child emulates the expression. This will help them to be better readers and will help with comprehension.
To gain meaning from text and encourage reading comprehension, your child needs to read quickly and smoothly - a skill known as fluency. By the beginning of 3rd grade, for example, your child should be able to read about 90 words a minute. Re-reading familiar, simple books gives your child practice at decoding words quickly, so they'll become more fluent in their reading comprehension.
If your child is struggling with reading comprehension, he may need more help with his reading — for example, building his vocabulary or practicing phonics skills. Talk with your child's teacher about supplemental reading at school and at home.
If your child's class is studying a particular theme, look for easy-to-read books or magazines on the topic. Bring them home and take time to read about them together. Some prior knowledge will help them make their way through tougher classroom texts and promote reading comprehension; plus, many children enjoy being 'one-up' on the other kids in class.
This "verbal processing" helps them remember and think through the themes of the book. Ask questions before, during, and after a session to encourage reading comprehension. For example:
- Before: "What do you like about this book? What do you think will happen in the story ?"
- During: "What's going on in the book? Is it turning out the way you thought it would? What do you think will happen next?"
- After: "Can you summarize the book? What did you like about it? Does this story/article remind you of anything (in your life or other books you have read)?
One of the most important things parents can do is to provide reading material that is interesting and relevant. But make sure your child gets lots of practice reading books that aren't too hard. They should recognize at least 90 percent of the words without any help. Stopping too often to figure out a word makes it tough for them to focus on the overall meaning of the story. Nothing turns a child off more than reading boring or difficult content. Make sure your child has access to subjects that interest them, such as scary stories, science fiction, sports, animals, fairytales, and babysitting clubs.
By consistently using these reading comprehension tips and strategies you'll provide a learning environment that will improve your child's reading comprehension development. Not only that, you'll form a parent–child connection that will serve your child well as they meet the challenges of school years and beyond.