Learning to read involves more than just learning letters, sounds and words. It’s just as important to develop a child’s reading comprehension skills.
Now you may think that it’s putting the cart before the horse to teach comprehension strategies to a child who can’t read many words yet or is still unsure about letters and sounds. Not so!
Reading comprehension strategies can be taught to very young children even before they start learning any decoding skills (letters, sounds etc). They don’t need to be able to read any words at all.
It’s very easy for children to learn comprehension strategies because they’re all about enjoying the book and the reading experience, and talking about it in a guided way. You introduce each strategy when you’re doing the reading and they’re listening.
Recently I worked with a kindy class and had the opportunity of teaching them reading comprehension strategies. I taught them how to make connections, make predictions and create images with fictional and non-fictional texts.
While they were listening to a story or some informational text, I would encourage them to share, for example, a personal connection with the text. It was very exciting to see young students raising their hands and saying ‘I made a connection’ and then sharing that connection with the whole class. I would write their names on sticky notes and leave them on the pages of the book as a reminder of their connections. We’d revisit the book later and as the sticky notes showed up, we would again talk about the connections they’d made.
Of course, these kids were not ‘struggling’ readers. They were just learning to read. They were learning decoding strategies as well as comprehension strategies. Comprehension strategies take away a lot of the stress that struggling readers feel, however. Let’s skip to a teenager I worked with recently who ‘hated’ reading.
She had learned to decode and read lots of words, but didn’t understand the meaning of what she was reading. She couldn’t identify the main idea of a sentence or paragraph of text. I taught her the same reading comprehension strategies as I’d taught the kindy kids, and a few more, and we practised them when I was reading, when we were taking turns to read and when she was reading. This was all it took for her to start understanding and engaging with texts. Her reading level skyrocketed.
My e-books for parents explain how to teach reading comprehension strategies. I wrote them because I couldn’t find any others that provide this information, and yet these simple skills can change a child’s life.