Reading is really all about comprehension…understanding and making meaning from what you’ve read. The purpose of ALL other reading skills is for the reader to make meaning. It’s important when you are teaching reading that you keep meaning in mind.
There are some specific comprehension strategies that all good readers use that you can teach to your children. It is never too early to start. I’ve taught students to read from kindergarten to college using these strategies. For elementary aged students, you may wish to go over one strategy for a whole month. For junior high through college, you may want to spend a week. Sometimes just learning what they should be thinking while they are reading helps tremendously.
Whatever the time period, I recommend teaching these starting with you. Model how it works. Read something and tell what you are thinking in your own head. Then read along with them, letting them practice while you are doing the bulk of the work. Finally, let them practice on their own, reading with you helping only when needed.
Schema & Connections-Your mind is like a storehouse that holds your memories, experiences, and facts. Good readers use this information to help understand what they’ve read by making connections from the text. There are 3 types of connections: Text to Self, Text to Text (Author), and Text to World. You can talk about what the connection is and how it helps to understand what is happening in the reading.
Questioning/Wondering-Good readers ask themselves questions before they read, when they read, and after they read. Curious about the answer, they continue reading. Readers who ask questions and know where the answers to their questions are to be found are more likely to have a richer comprehension. Sometimes questions can be found by reading on, looking in another source, or making inferences. When you demonstrate your own questions and where to find answers, you will need reading material that is thought provoking.
Inferences- When we make inferences, we make reasonable assumptions (not opinions) based on the information provided in the text and our background knowledge. Some inferences are proven as we read further, some are not explicitly stated. Look at evidence or clues from the text and how background knowledge helps to understand what is happening.
Reader’s Images-Readers images are pictures or movies we see in our heads while we are reading. Everyone’s image will be different because we relate it to our background knowledge and the images can be changed or adapted each time we read something, even when we merely read on or when we learn about someone else’s image. Poetry is a terrific resource for teaching reader’s images.
Critical Reading and Analyzing-Critical reading and analyzing are about judging written material for accuracy and truthfulness. Many readings will be based on the author’s bias and readers should be taught to make their own judgments about the evidence in a way that is reasonable and based on facts.
One of my favorite things to say to a struggling reader when he/she has come upon a difficulty is not, “Sound out that word.” But instead, “Does that make sense?” I want the reader’s focus to always be on meaning. The purpose of decoding a word is not to say it right, but to bring a deep level of understanding to what is being read.
Wishing you homeschool blessings,