First we learn to read and then we read to learn. Even after students have mastered the mechanics of reading many still have trouble understanding the text, making connections with the story, and relating what they’re reading to what they already know. Here are some tips on helping your students read to learn.
Read to your child
Even if they can read on their own, it is very valuable to read to your child. A child’s listening skills are usually stronger than their reading skills. Your child can comprehend more if he/she reads along silently as you read to them.
You can get all books on tape including text books. If a particular subject is difficult for your child get their textbook on tape and see if that improves their comprehension. Remember they need to read along with the tape, thus you are pairing reading and listening.
Visualize the story
Encourage your child to visualize the events in the story, creating a movie in their mind. Then have them describe it to you. Research has shown that some people automatically make a movie in their mind when reading and those people have vivid images from which to refer back to for better understanding of the material.
Teach how books are organized
Pay attention to captions, charts, section headings, and study questions. Reading these first will help organize their thinking and provide facts for them to relate their reading to.
With fiction books, look for the 5 W’s: who are the main characters, where and when does the story take place, what conflicts do the characters face, and why do they act as they do.
Stop and have them think about what will happen next. Anticipate the rest of the plot. Asking for predictions encourages your child to pay very close attention to what they’re reading and you can also gauge how much they’re comprehending.
Talk to Your Child about what they’re Reading
Talk to your children about the book or chapter they’ve just finished. What was the main idea? Who was their favorite character? Why did they like or dislike the book? For text book reading – ask what they learned and how does it apply to what they’re learning in school? Having to verbalize what they’ve read requires them to make sense of it.
Have your child keep a notepad or index cards nearby to jot down important information as they read. Note-taking also pushes the reader to make sense of what they’re reading. The cards then become good tools to use for studying for that upcoming test.
If they own the book teach them how to highlight important information. If your child is a visual learner – creating charts, mind maps, graphs, or diagrams will help them organize and remember the important information.
The stronger their vocabulary the better their comprehension. Have your child look up words he or she does not know! Then have them use those new words during the next day or so to really own those new words.
Help Translate Figures of Speech A child with language-based learning issues may be overly literal. For example, “it’s raining cats and dogs” could trip them up when reading this in a story. Help your child understand that a phrase that seems out of context may be a figure of speech.
Read Between the Lines
Point out sentences in which information is implied, and ask them to fill in what’s missing. They should understand the statement, “Wendy was excited to have won the National Spelling Bee for the second time in two years”, means that Wendy won this honor the year before.
Build on Background Knowledge
It’s esier to understand subject matter that you know something about. Help your child bring his or her own experience to their understanding of a book.
Form a Book Group
If your child has friends who enjoy similar books get them together to discuss what they’ve read or collaborate on a project about a book such as a skit or mural about the story.
Most importantly if your children see you enjoying and discussing books you’ve read you will instill your love of reading to them.