Reading involves more than sounding out individual words on a page. One of the essential reading skills is what is commonly referred to as "reading comprehension." This term usually conjures up thoughts of tests like the SAT, but actually reading comprehension is a skill that is essential to processing anything we read, from newspaper articles to magazines, and even recipes in cookbooks.
Reading comprehension is made up of a three-step process, each one leading to the other. The first step is being able to identify the facts and ideas in the things that we read. After recognizing ideas and facts, the second step is understanding them. The third step is critical thinking. Despite the word "critical," critical thinking does not mean the ability to point out flaws or mistakes. What it really means is the ability to assess the ideas being presented, whether they are reasonable or not.
This may sound like a largely complicated process for a child, but this is a mental process everyone does when they read, usually unconsciously. When we read the news, for example, we absorb the facts, think about what they mean, and then either we accept what we're being told or not. Like any other kind of skill, reading comprehension can be honed from a young age. It will help your child absorb his studies better, and even when he graduates from school and enters the work force, it will be useful to him all his life.
Here are 3 methods to help improve reading comprehension for your child:
# 1. Provide context.
Do you ever ask yourself what movie trailers really do for the audience? Sure, they build up the hype and the anticipation, which makes them great at drawing in a crowd to watch the film. But aside from that, movie trailers give the audience an idea of what to expect, and how they're supposed to understand the film they're going to watch. If the trailer is full of humor, the audience expects a comedy. None of them will complain if the film never talks about politics or the meaning of life, but everyone will complain if they do not laugh.
Also, if a film opened without showing a trailer, how many people do you think would take the chance to watch a movie they know nothing about? It's the same with the things we read. While it's true that you can just hand a book to a child without any explanation and expect him to read it, it's illegally that he will. The best thing to do is to give him some idea what it's about. This will not only make him excited about it, it will also help him think about what he's reading. What you say can completely change the way he understands the story. For example, if you say, "This is a story about a lion and a mouse," he'll think, "This is a story about animals." But if you say, "This is a story about a lion and a mouse who became friends," he'll think, "How can two different animals be friends?" Hopefully, once he's read the story, he'll realize it's about how we can make friends with people different from ourselves. You can do this with a child of almost any age, even one who you are still reading to.
# 2. Encourage your child to ask questions. Do not dismiss questions you find hard to answer.
Some people have a misunderstanding notice that a child completely understands something when he does not ask questions about it. It's rare that anyone, child or adult, completely understands anything, but usually the lack of questions is due to disinterest or a lack of understanding. When your child asks questions, it's one of the best signs that he's interested and he understands enough to know there's more to learn. If you're reading to him, and your child interrupts to ask you a question, always answer him right away. Do not leave it until the story is done (unless what he wants to know is the ending!)
A child does not have a long attention span. If you leave his question for later, either he'll forget it, or he will not pay attention to the rest of the story because he's just waiting for an answer. If your child does not ask questions, you can teach him by asking questions yourself. Do not treat it like it's a quiz. Your purpose is to engage him and make him think, not test him. It can be something as simple as, "And the hero climbed and climbed, until he could see the clouds under his feet."
# 3. Access what was read
Assessment does not sound like something a child can do, but actually, it can boil down to questions as simple as, "Did you like the story?" Then you can ask, "What did you like about it?" Or if your child did not think it was so great, you can ask, "What did not you like about it?" Younger children are usually very concrete about what they like or do not like. They'll usually say something like, "I do not like dragons, they're scary." Or "I like dragons, they fly and they have fire!" Encourage this tension, because if it stays with them until they're older, they'll be able to give definite answers about what they read, instead of answers based on impressions.
If your child says, "It was fun!" Egypt "It was boring," and he can not say exactly what was fun or boring, ask him specific questions like, "Was it fun when the princess rode on the dragon?" Egypt "Was it boring when the princess was dancing?" This will teach him to distinguish between facts and his opinions.