Why teach reading comprehension before a child can read?

It may sound like putting the cart before the horse to start teaching your child reading comprehension strategies before they can read, or if they can only read a few words. In fact, it’s a really good idea because it helps children learn to read more quickly.

When we think about early reading skills, we usually picture children learning the alphabet and the sounds the letters represent, learning what words actually are, and learning how to isolate the sounds in words to work them out and blend sounds together to make them. But is this enough to produce a good reader?

Most children go through this process easily enough and learn to decode words AND interpret the text as they go along. Some children, although developing good decoding skills, don’t pick up on the comprehension side, ie they read but don’t understand what they’ve read. Teaching reading comprehension strategies is easy and fun and is guaranteed to fix this problem.

But why teach these strategies even before they can decode words?

As pre-readers, children are not under any stress. They are being read to for pure enjoyment. Listening to stories is all about fun! Imagination is in overdrive and children will often pretend to be characters in the stories, and explore what they’ve heard in their play. Many parents already unconsciously teach reading comprehension as they read to their child, by talking with them about what the book is about, what it reminds them of, what’s happening in a story, what might happen next, etc.

Reading comprehension is best developed by TALKING about the content of books or other texts!

It’s very easy to learn to direct this talk a little and consciously teach the most effective, proven reading comprehension strategies. In this way, you can make sure you’re maximising on something that you may already be doing with your child.

Then, when it comes to learning to decode words, not only will your child know that the printed text (in books, signs, posters or anywhere) is telling us something, but they’ll also expect to understand and enjoy it. In other words, your child will already love the printed word even though they can’t yet read it. This early engagement with reading is a far cry from the actual fear that many children feel when they look at printed text and think of reading as just about working out the words.

Children who have been taught reading comprehension strategies use them! They know when something they read is not making sense to them, and they re-read or re-examine it without prompting.




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