Good oral skills are an essential basis, not only for reading comprehension, but for all round literary success. This is because both oral language and literate language involve very similar linguistic knowledge.
When working on your child’s oral language skills, it is important to understand that you have to initiate most of the interactions, at least at first. As her oral language develops, you can encourage her to take a more leading role in conversations.
Some particularly good oral language strategies that, in turn, help develop good reading comprehension are:
- Giving only one or two instructions at a time, in short sentences
- Modelling activities that require reading, eg reading the rules of a simple game or following an easy recipe
- Reading to her every day and discussing what is happening in the story, as well as discussing some pictures and words used in the story
- Reading stories that contain some words that are new to her, and talking about those words
- Frequently allowing her to choose the story, and reading it often if she enjoys it
- Asking some “who, what, when, where & why questions” after watching a movie together or reading a story, eg Who was the main character? What did you like best about the mother? When did the boy come home? Where did the little dog hide? Why do you think the cat wanted to sleep in the tree-house?
- Giving her the opportunity to comment on your own stories
- Modelling retelling some events that happened in your day, and encouraging her to ask you questions about your day
- Asking her about her day, using “open-ended questions”, eg What was the best (or funniest) thing that happened to you today? Why do you think that happened? What made you happy today?
- Talking aloud as you help her understand and solve everyday problems
- Asking how things are the same or different in everyday situations
- Modelling correct grammar and speech as often as you can
- Pointing out print in everyday situations, eg on signs, posters, food labels
- Singing songs or familiar rhymes, making occasional mistakes, and encouraging her to pick up on these
- Encouraging her to use adjectives when describing something, eg a furry brown teddy
- Encouraging her to describe a picture she has drawn, and then writing down her description and reading it back to her
- Talking about shopping lists and giving her the opportunity to write something on your list
- Modelling writing for other genuine purposes, eg notes, letters, signs, diary entries, menus
- Encouraging her to write short text for genuine purposes, eg notes for people, signs, lists, and discussing with her what she wants or needs to say