To improve reading comprehension, students should be encouraged to complete pre-reading activities before reading text. Familiarity with the text improves understanding and leads to reading success.
Mechanics involve specifics like the actual order of reading from top to bottom, left to right, and one page at a time. They also include the concept of a beginning, middle, and end of a story. To help your child grasp the mechanics of reading, break them down into small steps and then demonstrate each of them for your child. Get a “big” book from the children’s section of your library or bookstore, and as you read it aloud, use your finger to follow the order of the words. In this way, the left to right and top to bottom reading requirement is very noticeable — not a subtle detail that children are expected to absorb. Use your finger to follow along as you read the words each time you read to your child, whether reading a recipe, the newspaper, comic strips, or the safety notice inside a shopping cart. In a gentle manner you can point out to your child that letters make up the words and strings of words make up the sentences that relay a story.
We get meaning from the written story because someone who wrote it (an ‘author’) wanted to share this message with us. These details about reading can be gently introduced during ‘reading time’. Each time you read a book with your child, start at the cover and point to the title, identifying it as the title, and then read it aloud. Do the same for the author’s name. You can also introduce the illustrator’s name if it does not become too confusing for your child. If this is too much new information at one time, save the introduction of the illustrator for a later time
Create a Story Mural for your Child
Create a story mural for the wall. Wherever it is hung, it will be a visual reminder about reading and the process of writing. Your child will be able to read it over and over to family and friends. Several skills will be emphasized during this activity. Your child will be gathering and applying information about books. That information includes a beginning, a middle, and an end to a story as well as reading from left to right. Fine motor skills are used in drawing pictures and printing letters. Creating story ideas and deciding the arrangement of items within the space limitations involves decision-making and problem-solving skills.
Before starting the activity, obtain a long sheet of paper, watercolor markers or crayons, and adhesive for hanging the mural. Discuss and decide with your child the idea of the story. Ask your child: “What will the beginning be?” “What will the middle and end of the story be?” Talk about how to arrange the beginning, middle,and end of the story on the paper. Keep the reading and story movement going from the left to the right of the paper and from the top to the bottom. Together, print the words on the correct sections of paper. Your child can add drawings to illustrate the story and number the sections if she/he chooses. Your child can add her/his name as the author. When the mural is displayed, take a picture of it with your child to document the accomplishment! Your child will enjoy reading the story to family and friends.
Encourage your Child to Write Your Story
Encourage your child to “write” stories, helping her/him to think of ways to present ideas that do not require her/him to actually print words if she/he is not ready to do this. Of course, continue this activity after your child does begin printing! You can make a small booklet for your child by stapling several white sheets together. To do this, evenly stack the papers so the corners line up. Fold the stack in half and staple on the crease to form a book. Your child can determine the subject.
Keeping it fairly simple is a good way to start. Talk with your child about the ideas and help to create a plan to fit the story into the page length of your book. Together, draw pictures and print simple words beginning with the first page. Talk about how to use the pages so all the ideas will be expressed. Ask your child: “What should go at the beginning of the story?” “What should be at the end?” Be sure and identify a ‘title’ for the book and you and your child can print his/her name on it as author. Count the number of pages together. Your child may want to write the numbers on the pages independently, but be available to provide assistance upon request.
At this point, it should be mentioned how very important it is that you read to your child each and every day. Once a routine of daily reading is established in your house you will find your child always eager to suggest a book. Be sure to “stretch the envelope” for your child. Read his/her requests but introduce different genres, such as nonfiction, children’s poetry, etc. However, try to avoid reading anything too far above your child’s comprehension level, as he/she will quickly lose interest.
A way to increase exposure time to reading is to read to children in their beds as a final activity before saying good night. This can be “Mom’s or Dad’s selection” time. For instance, select a book and read one or more chapters each night to two- to five-year-olds. Since there may be very few illustrations, the children can relax in bed and not worry about competing with siblings or playmates to get closest to the pictures but instead just use their listening skills.
It does not matter that your child is not going to write a book report on the computer by the time the story is finished, or that you may not read the entire book before getting requests from your child for a book change. You have exposed him/her to a different kind of book, a different kind of writing, a new listening experience. Best of all, it is all satisfying time spent together.
Repeating upon Request
Facilitate this learning process of sound and symbol relationships by reading your child’s favorite rhymes and stories repeatedly—as many times as your child requests. If your child wants the same story every day for two weeks, cheerfully read it to him/her. As you read, run your index finger under the words you are pronouncing. You are helping to create an association between letters and the sounds they make, develop word recognition, as well as demonstrating the mechanics of reading!
There are many sources of print in your home—cereal boxes, an cookies box, prepackaged dinners, electronics manuals, television program guides in newspapers, and children’s magazines. Ask your child to get the cookies box out in the morning, point out the word ‘Cookies’, and read it aloud with him/her. Tell your child you have to ‘read’ the instruction details about the cookies (Keeping it refrigerated, storing it in a dry place, etc).
If your child’s favorite lunch is soup, place the soup cans where your child can reach them and ask him/her to choose the soup each time you are going to fix it. As you receive the can from your child, point out the letter “s” and associate it with the “s” sound in the word “soup.” If you want to reinforce this concept later or expand the “s” sound to other words and items, do this with “soap” when your child has a bath. You can also reinforce the sound and letter connection when your child puts on “socks.” Each time, select a word that starts with the chosen sound and is not part of a blend, such as “sn” in snake, “sw” in sweater, “sk” in skirt, or “sh” in shirt. Learning occurs most effectively in natural settings, when the learner is participating and actively involved with the concept. Keep the experience light, take advantage of learning opportunities presented in your day-to-day family life. Make it fun for both of you.
Retelling the Story
After reading a book with your child that she/he has selected, challenge her/him to retell that story to you by using the pictures. Another time you can encourage your child to “act out” or dramatize the story either with you or for you. Let your child be the director, do it her/his way. Allow your child to reinterpret/retell the story in a unique way.Remember to introduce your child to more sources of print than just books.
Wonderful children’s magazines are available for home subscription or at the library. Once again,when you are finished reading a story, ask questions to help your child to understand which event occurred first, second, and third. Another way to practice retelling the events of a story is to use the comics in the newspaper.
After helping your child read the comics, cut out the picture boxes and then invite your child to arrange them in the correct sequence. Keep it simple and casual.