Getting your children to understand how to read

Whether they’re aware of it or not, strong readers constantly monitor their comprehension of texts as they read. If you’ve ever back-tracked while reading when you were tired or distracted, you probably returned to a paragraph that you’d already read because your inner monitor told you to re-read. Most educators agree that children should be explicitly taught to monitor their comprehension while reading. Fortunately, you can teach your child some simple techniques to help him or her develop more effective reading habits. Instruction in these techniques will fit seamlessly into story-time or your usual reading practice routine.

1. Teach your children to identify words or passages that don’t make sense in a sentence or the progression of events in a story. Pinpointing the problem is the second step in the process, and strong readers do it all the time. Proficient readers know when they need to moderate their reading pace, exert more effort or go back and reread.

2. Encourage your children to monitor their comprehension by periodically asking themselves if they understand the story they are reading. Some will benefit from hearing from a trusted adult that everyone has difficulty understanding certain parts of books. Tell them that there are times when you need to slow down your reading, stop and think, or re-read parts of a book.

3. Teach strategies for approaching the problematic word or passage. For example, if a word doesn’t seem to fit in a sentence, teach your child to try sounding out the word a second time and then rereading the passage. Young readers will also benefit from instruction on generating ideas about what the word or paragraph might mean. Model this process for them as you ‘think aloud’ about what the word looks like and whether it reminds you of another word that you know. You can also ‘think aloud’ about anything in the paragraph that provides a clue about the meaning of the unfamiliar word.

4. Finally, don’t make hard work of teaching your child these techniques. Your direction shouldn’t interrupt their reading or cause them to forget earlier events that occurred in a story. Remember, making sense of the whole is the reward of reading practice and the goal of learning to monitor comprehension.

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