Comprehension

When you share books with your children, they are learning to think and act like good readers — without even knowing it! You can help them get even more from reading time when you talk to them as you read.

Reading with comprehension means understanding what's been read. It takes practice, time, and patience to develop reading comprehension skills. Families can play an important role in helping a child learn to read for understanding.

First, make sure your child is reading books appropriate for their reading level. If a book is too hard, all your child's energy will be put into decoding and reading word for word, with less energy available to figure out what the book means. Books that your child can read with 98-100% accuracy are good choices for comprehension building.

Reading comprehension skills can be developed using a before-during-after approach. Below are a few suggestions that will help build comprehension skills.

Before

Your goal is to help your child build an understanding of and purpose for what they're about to read. Look at the book's cover. Ask, "What do you think this book might be about? Why? Can you make some predictions?" Guide your child through the pages, discuss the pictures, and brainstorm what might happen in the story. Talk about any personal experiences your child may have that relate to the story.

During

Your goal is to help your child be an active reader. Read together and talk about what's happening as they're reading. Stop and discuss any interesting or tricky vocabulary words. Talk about any surprising or sad passages, and help them visualise parts of the story. Ask your child, "Do you understand what's happening here? What do you think will happen next?" If your child seems unsure, stop, go back and reread if necessary. Discuss any confusing parts.

After

Your goal is to help your child reflect on what they've read. Summarise and share your favorite part of the book. Have your child rate the book on a scale from 1 to 10 and say why. Have your child reread their favorite part or act it out.

Take the extra time before and during reading to read with your child this way. You'll soon find yourself reading with a child who is motivated to comprehend and learn from everything they read.

Think Alouds

Children learn when they make connections between what they hear and what they know. One method parents can use to help make these connections is called a think aloud, where you talk through your thoughts as you read. Here are three ways to use think alouds, with examples from some children's books. Try these ideas to expand learning and to improve reading comprehension.

Connect the book to your child's own life experience

Example: A River Dream by Allen Say

"This book reminds me of the time my father took me fishing. Do you remember the time we went fishing?"

Connect the book to other books they have read

Example: Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe

"This story reminds me of Cinderella. Both stories are about sisters. Do you know any other stories about nice and mean sisters? Let's keep reading to find out other ways the stories are similar."

Connect the book to big ideas/lessons

Example: Stellaluna by Janell Cannon

"This story helps me understand that we are all the same in many ways, but it's our differences that make us special."

In these examples, you are "thinking aloud" many of the connections that good readers make naturally as they read. Modeling these types of connections will help young readers know how to do it when they read alone.