My oldest is learning to read … and, while he is doing a good job, we are still rough at points. One of the hardest things about working with beginning readers is that so much of their attention goes toward decoding…
P-UUUUUUUUUUP. PUP. PUP in a CUUUUUUUUUUUP. CUP. PUP in a CUP.
If you find it painful to listen to but your child does not seem overly frustrated, you are probably doing it right. Kids need time to work through words without parents and teachers interfering too quickly.
However, too much focus on decoding can mean that children are not thinking about the meaning of what they are reading. Here are some easy tips for how to encourage comprehension, even when your child is still working to break the code.
Explore Participatory Books
I have been excited by some of the new books that Disney Worldwide Publishing has sent us to preview which encourage readers to perform tasks in response to what they read. My boys have been particularly enamored with a book called Shake to Assemble (Glass/Lim). In this book, readers follow directions to “assemble” various superheroes. The participatory aspects of the text naturally encourages the reader to comprehend.
There are other books available written in this type of participatory format. For Frozen fans, there is an interative version of Do You Want to Build a Snowman? (Glass/Mosqueda). To participate, you do things like tap the page, shake the book, or turn the book around to build various components of Olaf.
Press Here (Tullet) is another popular version of a participatory book that I have had on my bookshelf for a couple years, which encourages hits to tap and shake dots on a book to change their position and color.
Ask Questions Every Few Pages
Do what teachers do – ask questions every few pages while you are reading with your child. Try to ask two different types of questions (based on Raphael’s Question-Answer Relationships) as you read:
In the Book Questions
In the book questions can be answered using information in the text. They tend to be a bit easier to answer than “In their Head” Questions. These questions may ask about details in the book (i.e., What color was Bob’s hat?) or require children to pull answers from various parts of the story (i.e., What three things did Jane do before she defeated the dragon?).
In Their Head Questions
In Their Head questions require children to use their background knowledge to make inferences or make connections about the text. In their head questions encourage critical thinking, a higher-order comprehension skill that should be promoted from an early age. In Their Head questions may ask children to “read between the lines” of the text (e.g., Why do you think Kevin was sad when he got to school?) or connect to their own lives (e.g., Would you want to have a pet llama? Why or why not?)
Questioning is important to check in on children’s understanding of the text and teach them, through example, that good readers monitor their comprehension as they read.
Disclosure: Disney Worldwide Publishing provided review copies to facilitate this post. All opinions are mine and have not been influenced in any way.