Teaching Reading Comprehension at Home

Teaching reading comprehension at home helps parents determine the level of text their child understands while reading. Comprehension means that a child has mastered the combination of vocabulary, phonics and fluency with cognitive skills. Reading aloud together at home will be one of the strongest methods of enhancing comprehension. Parents can help by using techniques that help children become active readers.

Prior Knowledge
It doesn't matter if you are reading fiction or non-fiction. Readers who use what they already know to help understand new concepts while reading are developing an understanding between the written word and life experiences. It makes sense. The more you know about a topic, the better you comprehend and learn. Prompt students to consider what they know about the topic of what they are about to read. Predicting a book's premise, based on its title or illustrations, is a good way to build basic comprehension.

Making Connections
Building a bridge between a story and real life encourages reflection during reading. Ask open ended questions or prompts that require your child to respond and justify why he responded in that way.  Prompts, including "I remember when . . ." or "I felt like that character when . . ." help teach your child to connect to the stories he is reading.

Simply asking questions about the reading material helps a child to understand important sections of text. You will want to ask questions that deal with concepts mentioned in the reading. "Why?" and "What if?" questions fall into this category.

Parents should also address select content by using questions leading off with "When?" or "How many?" Questions pertaining to sequential order also enforce comprehension. Tie questions together by using the before-during-after method. List any questions prior to reading, answer questions or generate new queries during reading and make a connection after finishing the selection.

Visualize what you are reading by creating a picture or movie in your mind. Draw pictures and talk about what your child sees while he reads. Don't limit mental pictures to plot; include characters, setting and symbols.

Inferring and Summarizing
Read between the lines and explain what is important. Question your child about the beginning, middle and end of the story. Doing so will help set parameters for sequencing.

Evaluating and Synthesizing
These two skills are the most difficult in the learning hierarchy. Evaluation involves making a judgment about the text. Synthesis involves pulling all elements of comprehension together and putting them in a new light. To build evaluation skills, ask your child what he liked or disliked about the material. Synthesis shows if your child can give the text an original meaning. It's sometimes considered the "a-ha!" moment.

Parents can help teach reading comprehension at home by modeling reading behaviors. Reading aloud and openly discussing text is a good starting point. And, depending on the age of your child, you can add different strategies to aid with comprehension.

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