Use Discussion to Improve Comprehension vs. Decoding
So, perhaps your child is a great decoder. He has a wonderful knowledge of how letters and sounds work. He is familiar with the most common words that appear in literature at his level, and he is a fluent reader. That is because he acquired these skills through his natural exposure to written material and his phonics program at school. If a child cannot decode words she certainly can’t move on to understand what the words are saying.
Teachers are not the only ones who can help children develop these strategies. Parents equipped with a book at the appropriate level can, through simple interactions with their child, get a bird’s eye view of their child’s understanding of a book or passage, as well as support him at home as he learns and practices these valuable skills.
I like to think about teaching reading in turns of having an exciting book group. What could be more motivating then sharing or reading the same story with other people and then discussing it? Yes, children can discuss their literature, in fact, they need to!
That said, you as a parent have a book in your hand, and are ready to listen to your child read:
- Pull him close to your side and take a good look at the book’s cover.
- Read the author’s name and then study the pictures together.
- Ask your child what he thinks the book will be about or who the characters will be.
Let him make as many predictions as he wants, not only in the beginning but in the middle too. After all, isn’t that what adults do when they read? We try to figure out how it will all end many pages before we read the last paragraph. It makes it exciting.
If, for example, the book is The Three Little Pigs, ask your child what other books he’s read that had a pig in it. I’ll bet he’ll know one.
Ask him if he thinks any of the pigs in The Three Little Pigs will be like the pig in the story he has read before. This will go a long way in helping him understand that connecting one book with another can help him make predictions about a certain character or plot.
If in another book a character is in the desert and has no water, ask your child how he thinks the character feels. Ask him if he ever remembers a time in his life when he was hot and had nothing to drink. If a connection is made he’ll be able to better empathize with the character as he can personally relate to the dilemma. You know that when your child is able to empathize with a fictional character, he understands something about the story. A show of emotion, whether laughter or shock, is a big sign that he comprehends, so watch for those emotions.