6 strategies to help your children become good comprehenders

10 Aug 2016

children reading

Researchers have narrowed down the habits that plague poor comprehenders to the following:

  • Their focus of reading is more on word recognition than comprehension.
  • They do not see the importance of linking the text to their own knowledge and experiences
  • They are poor at making inferences
  • They tend to indulge in superficial reading

These habits may give us some insight into that mind-boggling question that many parents grapple with: why does a child who reads widely not be able to answer comprehensions questions well?

Since voluminous reading does not equate to good comprehension, does it mean that our children should allocate some of the reading time to the other learning areas?

No.

Reading a wide genre of text builds on a child's vocabulary and general knowledge, which together with reading strategies, can help him understand what's being read. The idea is to employ reading strategies to what's being read to overcome reading difficulties and understand texts better.

Research on reading comprehension has exploded in the past 30 years or so and the following is what has been unveiled. Proficient readers:

  1. Use their background knowledge and make personal connections from the text with:
    • Something in their own life (text to self-connection)
    • Another text that they have read (text to text connection)
    • Something that is happening in the world (text to world connection).
    A student using this strategy while reading may say something like:
    • This reminds me of...
    • Has something like this ever happened to me or anyone I know?
  2. Ask themselves questions about the text, their reactions to it and the author's purpose for writing it. A student using this strategy while reading may say something like:
    • What in the text helped me know/think that?
    • How is this text making me feel?
    • Why did this character say/behave in this way?
    • What did the author mean by this?
    • Whose point of view is this?
  3. Make inferences by merging their background knowledge with text clues. This will help them answer questions about main themes and ideas. A student using this strategy while reading may say something like:
    • What will happen next? Why do I think that? What helped me guess that?
    • This could mean...
    • My guess is...
  4. Use all their senses and visualise or create a mental picture of what they are reading. A student using this strategy while reading may say something like:
    • I can imagine...
    • I can feel/see/smell/taste/hear...
  5. Determine which ideas are important and which are not so that they:
    • can tell the difference between fact and opinion
    • can determine cause and effect relationships
    • compare and contrast ideas
    • pinpoint problems and solutions
    A student using this strategy while reading may say something like:
    • What's important here? What matters most?
    • One thing I should notice is...
    • I want to remember...
  6. Summarise and Synthesise
    They retell the main points in their own words and combine these with their own thinking to create new knowledge. A student using this strategy while reading may say something like:
    • Now I understand why...
    • I used to think_______, but now I think _________
    • After learning _______, I now think ________

To set you on the path...

Many of us may have been of the opinion that reading well equates to reading fluently. We wonder why children who read well are unable to score those elusive high marks in comprehension tests. We can now see that reading is more than just articulating a collection of words. Instead, it involves thinking processes that parents can help develop in their children at home, without necessarily relying on tutors or without feeling handicapped because of a lack of a teaching degree. Practise these strategies on your own the next time you pick up a book or a magazine or the newspapers. Then have fun modelling these strategies to your children.

The above information is contributed by Chitra Pillay, Adjunct Lecturer from Marshall Cavendish Institute

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