“Wow you read that beautifully!” My second grade teacher said. I beamed with pride, knowing I had read the story with perfect fluency, pausing at full stops and commas as well as using expression.
“So tell me what happened in the story Angela” … What? I froze. I had no response. I was so focussed on ‘reading’ it perfectly that I had forgot to READ it!
I have no memory of this happening of course. My Dad tells me that story as it was told to him at parent teacher interviews. While I was a perfect little ‘reader’ my comprehension was lacking. From that moment on he always asked me to retell the story, and in time, I learned to ‘read’ as well as ‘read’. Confusing no? But it is true, sometimes we get so caught up in making sure children know the difference between what sounds ‘a’ and ‘b’ make that we forget that reading is about understanding.
If you can’t understand what you’re reading are you truly reading it? In my opinion the answer is no.
There are many fun ways to help your child understand what they are reading. And you can start doing it as soon as possible. Whether you are still reading books to your children or they are reading independently. It doesn’t have to be the old ‘tell me what you just read’ scenario. They’ll get bored of that pretty quick. Who wouldn’t?
Here are my favourite activities to do with littlies to help them understand and remember what it is they just read.
7 fun ways to encourage reading comprehension
Act it out
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before. But it is such a fun way to help children remember what they read. Simple finger puppets or a quick mask can help. Or you could just set up a little space with some props! Either way they will love it.
For those that love to draw, asking them to draw the beginning, middle and end of the story is a quick and easy way to see if they can sequence what happened in a story. It doesn’t matter if their pictures resemble well…not much at all! Just ask them to tell you about the pictures and you will soon see if they remember what happened in the book. Younger children can just draw their favourite part or page.
This can involve making a craft activity or even recipe from a part of the story. Children could also try making some of the characters with play-dough. While your child is busy throw them a few questions like “Which part of the story are you making” “What happened in that part of the story?”.
This is great for those with big imaginations (Don’t they all?). They can tell, draw or write about what might happen if the story were to continue, or what if it didn’t end that way? How else could the story end?
Have your child find those tricky words that they weren’t sure of. Talk about them, check the dictionary and then have them tell you in their own words what they mean or draw a picture to match.
Does the story to relate to something in your child’s life? Maybe it’s about pets and you have pets too. Or perhaps the story is about families and your child can connect it to your own family. Whatever it may be, a key to comprehension is connecting the story to experiences of your own.
What if they just don’t get it and can’t tell you what happened? Re-read! Read it to them or have them read it back to you another time…or if it’s totally out of their range, try another book. Maybe a favourite picture book that they know well. After all, you want them to love reading. There’s nothing worse than putting a child off reading! So make it fun and keep them confident. That’s what it’s all about.