Parents are their child’s first and most important teacher. It’s almost impossible to overestimate the tremendous impact parents have on their child’s reading success. Throughout the first years of school, teachers are helping your child develop reading skills that will enable him or her to become a proficient reader. But make no mistake, learning to read takes practice, practice and more practice–much more than a child can get during a school day.
You can provide reading opportunities and extra guidance at home by simply implementing the simple activities and tips you find on this page. They are sure to help your child with reading comprehension regardless of what skill level they are currently at. Equally important, they will help foster a love for reading.
The good news is that teaching reading comprehension strategies are really second nature to parents. For example, when a mother says something like, “Jenny, tell your dad what we did at the zoo today,” that builds a foundation for understanding how narratives work. While it would be great if all instructional techniques where this intuitive, most parents need a little nudge in the right direction. Here are four strategies and tips straight from the classroom that you can use at home.
Lay a strong foundation for reading success
If you were going to reupholster your sofa, you wouldn’t just choose a bolt of fabric, buy a staple gun and then get to work. You would do a little planning first. That would involve learning about all the materials and tools you need to do a proper job. You may even decide to take of course in upholstery. The point is you would educate yourself by gathering all the information and training needed before you get started.
Helping your child develop good reading comprehension skills involves the same type of planning. In other words, you need to give them the tools they need to apply to whatever kind of book you’re reading together.
Before reading a book about ocean life, for example, first talk to your child about how fish are different from mammals and have to live in a water environment. Preview the text to find unfamiliar words like “gills” and “vertebrate” and explain them before you start reading. Talk about the fish you may have seen in a pet store or at the beach. You can even go the extra mile and take your child to the local aquarium. Does this sound a little extreme? Not at all – teachers do it all the time! Just trust that these steps will go along way in comprehension development.
More reading time and less TV time
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 prime time TV. That means anything you read to them will enlarge their vocabulary much more than the conversational dribble heard on television.
Remember that your child’s listening vocabulary is much larger than her reading vocabulary. When you read books that are interesting to her, both reading and writing vocabularies increase. That’s because if she has heard a word before in context, then when it’s presented in the classroom she’ll be able to recognize it with greater comprehension.
Reading aloud and thinking aloud
Good readers unconsciously 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 a think aloud:
The title of this book is Bobby: The Bravest Boxer. There is a picture of a dog on the cover so that tells me Bobby is a boxer dog instead of a man that boxes. I wonder what the dog did that proved his bravery. I need to read ahead and find out. Oh, on the next page it says, “Bobby got very nervous when the children were playing outside all alone, especially if they are near the street.” That tells me that Bobby may do something to protect one of the children in the family. But how? I have to read on to find out more.
Let your child be the teacher
Most all children jump at the opportunity to play a little role reversal. As you and your child are reading, take turns coming up with questions, making predictions, and summarizing. You be the student and let your son or daughter be the teacher. Children love being able to say things like “Dad, tell me what you think will happen next!”
Keep it interesting and relevant
One of the most important things parents can do is to provide reading material that is interesting and relevant. Nothing turns a child off reading like boring content. If your reader is a young boy make sure he has access to scary stories, sports books, or science fiction. And if your girl likes those things as well, make sure she has them in addition to stories about animals, fairytales, and babysitting clubs.
By consistently using these reading comprehension tips and strategies you’ll provide a learning environment that will accelerate your child’s reading comprehension development. Not only that, you’ll form a parent – child bond that will serve your child well as he or she meets the challenges of school years and beyond.