Reading comprehension is one of the 5 major components of reading and one that is continually developing. Incorporating a series questions during your shared read aloud experiences will assist your child in developing their comprehension skills and build their confidence when discussing their thoughts and opinions about a book.
Remember to keep things light and fun! This is not a time to test but rather a way to engage the reader in a conversation about what they’re reading to assist them with developing the skills to think beyond the words on a page.
Book Orientation- Why is this important?
Making predictions is a critical aspect of reading comprehension and one where we can draw on prior knowledge and experiences to form thoughts and ideas about a text.
I like the strategy SEE-THINK-WONDER where we first ask a child to simply state what they can SEE on the cover as an objective observation. The great part about this, is that you can’t get anything wrong when you’re simply stating what you SEE…excellent for children who are new to making predictions or who are reluctant to share for fear of getting it wrong.
Next we can ask them what do they THINK the story will be about to encourage prediction skills. Helping children to start thinking about a story before they’ve read it prepares them to better access the concepts of the story and engages them right from the start.
Lastly we can ask what do you WONDER about this book. Asking ourselves questions before, during and after we’ve read something is what good readers do. When we do this we are engaging in a reflective process that allows us to dive deeper into an idea or concept.
Like learning most new skills, when first starting out it’s good to model what this looks and sounds like coming from an experienced reader.
The great part about this exercise is that there is NO WRONG ANSWER!
After a child has shared their prediction I say something like “well now I’m excited to read and find out more about this story!” creating a space for dialogue to occur during our shared reading experience.
Monitoring thinking – Why is this important?
Differentiating between fact and fiction helps a child make sense of their world.
Pausing during a read aloud to ask your child if something that’s occurred is real or imaginative encourages them to STOP and THINK about what they’re taking in.
Up until the age of 3 or 4 young children can have a difficult time understanding the difference between fantasy and reality so initially, pointing out to them that a certain situation isn’t real will assist them in starting to distinguish this for themselves.
Lots of real things can occur in a fiction text which can be confusing for children when they need to start identifying the different features of a fiction vs non fiction text at school.
Starting this conversation early on helps prepare them for these later discussions!
Since my daughter was really young we’ve made habit of saying things like “A giraffe in the bath?! Giraffes don’t take baths in a house! That’s funny!” Now she’s the one pointing out imaginary things to me in the text demonstrating that she can distinguish between real and imaginary situations.
Character Thoughts- Why is this important?
When we stop to think about what a character is thinking we are starting to look at inferential comprehension, what is not literally laid out in the text.
We need to start thinking actively and critically about the words and images to give us more information. This helps our engagement in the reading process.
Using picture books to develop visual literacy by examining the illustrations is an excellent reading comprehension strategy and one that can be easily done when stopping to discuss the pictures to learn more about a character.
To get started, during your next read aloud take the time to pause and discuss how a character may be feeling at a particular point to help your little one stop and reflect on the characters perspective.
Like any reading comprehension strategy we have to first model and show what this might look and sound like for our little learners to hear what an experienced reader might think and say as a response to the text.
Building Empathy- Why is this important?
When we stop to think about how a character is feeling we’re helping build emotional vocabulary and empathy.
We can use visual literacy skills to analyse the character’s size, positioning, gaze, body language etc to help us gain a better understanding about how they’re feeling and thus helping us connect better to the character and story.
This in turn can start to help us identify character motivation and decisions assisting with better comprehension.
This is probably one of my favourite questions to ask my daughter to hear her justification. Adding the question “how can you tell?” is a really important element as this is where the justification and how a child shows their thinking comes into play.
Like with all comprehension strategies modeling the skill first is super important for your child to hear how an experienced reader would go about analysing an illustration and text.
Sharing an Opinion- Why is this important?
Encouraging children to share their likes and dislikes opens up a dialogue about a text. It helps develop justification skills and promotes their ability to have an opinion.
We need to learn to express our likes and dislikes to start to better understand ourselves and the kind of stories we like to read.
We want children to be excited about reading and by encouraging them to voice their opinion about a text we are helping them learn about their likes and dislikes.
Keeping questions open ended (not a yes or no answer) promotes more dialogue. It’s in our conversations that learning occurs.
This is a great way to review content to help your child relate what they have learned to what they already know and bringing it back full circle to building background knowledge.