Use Reading Time to Build Language and Comprehension
The Many Benefits of Reading Together
Of all the skills that you can nurture through reading aloud to your children, language and comprehension skills have the most impact on their overall learning. Language and comprehension are critical to academic progress, because without understanding what is heard or read, very little learning can take place. School demands that children learn to glean information from spoken and printed words, and reading aloud can help them become more efficient learners. Try these extension activities to help your child get more meaning from stories.
Working with Words
The more words your child knows, the better his or her comprehension will be. You don’t have to have boring vocabulary lessons to get the job done, though. Read a variety of stories at levels above your child’s current reading level, and you will be able to add many words to his or her collection.
Choose books that are rich in vocabulary to help your child master new words. As you read, watch for words that may be new for your youngster. Take a moment either to explain them before you begin the book or after the story is over. It’s usually best not to interrupt the flow of the story if you can avoid doing so, so stop in the middle only if your child asks you to do so or if you see that he or she is not able to follow the story without knowing the new word.
One other activity to try with your child after you’ve shared a story is summarizing. Have your young listener retell the story in his or her own words. You can do this right after you’ve read, or make it a larger project like putting on a play about the action in the story. These types of activities will build comprehension, summarizing, and sequencing skills, which are all important to understanding what has been read and vital to later study skills.
Building Those Thinking Skills
Predicting the future works well for familiar and new books or stories. Simply read a few pages into the story, then stop and have your audience speculate about what might happen next. Think together about how the problem might be resolved or how the story might end.
If you are working with familiar material, you will help your child build memory and expressive skills. Logical thinking, prediction, and other higher order thinking skills are needed to make predictions about unknown material. Either way, your child will benefit from mental gymnastics like this.
As you read, you can also pause from time to time and get your child to tell you sensory details that were not specifically mentioned in the story. For example, if you are reading a story about a boy going to the store, ask what color the car was. No fair looking at pictures! This one needs to come completely from the imagination. You can ask questions about how people or places look, how people are dressed, what’s on the walls of a room, or what products are on the store shelves. Just make sure that your questions cannot be answered either by listening to the text or by looking at illustrations. One of the foundations of listening and later reading comprehension is visualization. When you ask children to fill in details like these from their imaginations, it forces them to form a mental picture of the characters, setting, or action. This helps them to understand and remember what they are hearing or reading about.