It is almost that time of year again when NAPLAN hits Australian schools. Whilst there are things that you can do to prepare your child for the upcoming test (see our recent blog How to prepare your child for Naplan), our focus at Leap into Literacy is to provide children with literacy skills that will help them in all areas of their life.
In Australia, reading comprehension is one of the key literacy areas that is declining each year, especially for boys (Adoniou, 2017; Daly, 2015; Savage, 2017; Scholes, 2018; Topsfield, 2013). This is a real concern for our children and was the basis for my recent PhD research.
Improving reading comprehension should not be the sole responsibility of our education system. Whilst they have an important part to play, it is also up to us, as parents, to ensure that we are doing all we can for our children.
Helping children with reading comprehension isn’t just about formal structure or following a checklist. We can integrate many activities into our everyday lives. Here are some practical ways to help your child with their reading comprehension.
Understand the purpose for reading
Why do you read? Is it for information, directions or enjoyment? Understanding the purpose can help with comprehension as it gives your child context to interpret what they are reading. It is important to role model these reading behaviours and explain to children why you are reading. It could be a recipe, news, instruction manual or just for enjoyment. Find opportunities to demonstrate and discuss what you are reading.
Activate prior knowledge
Connecting the text to a child’s past experiences and prior knowledge increases the likelihood that they can relate to the information and remember it, as it is linked to their own lives. Types of questions you could ask when reading a text together are:
- What do you already know about this topic?
- Is this subject familiar to you?
- Do the characters in this book remind you of anyone else?
- Does this book or type of book remind you of anything else you have read?
A prediction is a sensible guess about what is going to happen, based on past experiences, prior knowledge, what they know about the author, aspects that they are familiar with from the book (such as character, setting, theme), clues from the text (such as foreshadowing), and illustrations.
Encourage your child to make predictions throughout the entire text. Even when you get to the end!
Inferring is when a reader is able to create meaning from the written text. It means that they must use prior knowledge to help them create a meaning that is not stated specifically in the text. When readers infer, they make predictions, form conclusions, make connections and critically think about the text. Thus, they are increasing their comprehension abilities by connecting the dots.
Helping your child with inference can often be a challenging task, especially if they usually take literal meaning from texts. Asking questions is the best way to help your child link what is NOT being said to the meaning of the text.
When children form their own questions, they are able to participate in active learning. Questioning can also help with some of the other strategies, such as activating prior knowledge and setting a purpose. Here are some of the questions that you can ask before reading:
- What type of text is this and what is the genre?
- What clues can you see from the title, cover, chapter headings, and pictures that tell you more about the text?
- Why are you reading this?
- What do you know about the author and why do you think he/she wrote this book?
- Can you make any connections with the text?
Your child may have questions too! Encourage them to write them down, as this can also help with their comprehension skills.
As they are reading, you can ask your child to form a picture of the character or setting in their mind. A great example of visualisation comes from a student who recently watched the movie Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. She commented to me that she imagined the Basilisk to be more colourful and more dragon-like when reading the book!
She had created a very clear image in her mind from the text as to what the creature should look like, which in turn helped her give meaning to events in the book. Imagination and visualisation are important components in reading comprehension.
Give your child the opportunity to retell a text in their own words. This helps them to retain more of what they have read. When they are able to summarise a story, they are better able to tell the difference between major and minor events. Retelling and summarising events that have happened during the day could also help your child with comprehension.
A child needs to be actively involved in the reading process in order to comprehend what they are reading. By asking questions, role modelling reading behaviours and participating in your child’s reading experience, you will be setting them up for success.
All of our classes at Leap into Literacy will also help your child improve their reading comprehension skills. If you’re interested in seeing what Leap into Literacy has to offer, you can book your free trial here here