Learning with Janilee: Reading Comprehension

Thursday, February 18, 2016

One of my goals as a parent is to constantly create learning opportunities for my children.  When it comes to books, I want to help my littles progress to the point of not just enjoying a story, but really comprehending it.  Reading comprehension is the understanding and interpretation of what is being read.  It's a crucial skill to develop and foundational to success in so many other areas. 

We asked one of our favorite teachers for some advice on how to approach reading comprehension at home.  Janilee is an elementary school teacher in one of the best performing school districts in Colorado.  She holds a Masters in Education and has been nominated for numerous awards related to teacher excellence.  We feel so lucky to be able to turn to her (and we do, often) for advice on child development and literacy.

What do teachers wish that parents would do at home with their kids?
Reading at home creates great readers. Reading at school is not enough. 
  • Creating special reading corners, closets, special reading times and making it fun will help your child develop that love of reading
  • Use reading as a reward…”When you finish cleaning your room you can read your favorite book.” “Wow, you did a great job! Let’s grab a book and read together.” 
It is also huge for children to see their parents reading. Parents who read have children who read. Several studies have shown that it is especially important for children to see their dads reading and have dad reading to them. Read to your child, with your child and listen by your child as he/she reads. (The To, With, By Rule of reading with children) Begin this from the minute you bring your child home from the hospital and don’t stop until they leave for college. Reading can create a very special bond between parent and child and can be something you share even when you are going through those rough parent/child times.

How can parents better engage children when they're reading?  What questions should we be asking?
Start with a few simple questions for daily reading. 
  1. Who is the main character? What is the setting? 
  2. Tell me three events that happened in the story/chapter. 
  3. What was the problem in the story/chapter? What was the solution? 
  4. What might happen next? 
Applying specific reading strategies that reflect the thinking processes we use to comprehend what we read can be useful when discussing literature with your child. 
  • Use prior knowledge: Make connections between what your child is reading to what they already know
  • Ask questions: Ask questions before, during, and after reading
  • Visualize: Talk about the pictures your child sees in their head while they're reading
  • Draw inferences: This includes making predictions and testing and confirming those predictions as they read, drawing conclusions, inferring ideas, and reading 'between the lines'
  • Synthesize information: This includes summarizing, testing, and integrating new information with known information
Examples of these types of questions include:
  1. What is the main idea of what you just read?
  2. What do you know about ___________________ that the author hasn't specifically told you?
  3. What do you predict will happen next?  Why do you think that?  How will you know if your prediction is correct?
  4. What questions are you asking?  What are you wondering about?
  5. Did that make sense?  What will you do if something doesn't make sense?
  6. Tell me a summary of the story.
  7. What pictures are you seeing in your head?
  8. What words have you found that you didn't know before?  
  9. What conclusions have you drawn about  _____________________________________? 

What are some ways to encourage children making the transition to reading on their own?
  • Begin reading chapter books to your children at a young age. 
  • Help them visualize the stories by acting them out, having them draw the picture they see in their head, asking them what they think the character looks like, etc. 
  • When they start reading chapter books on their own, switch off with you read a page and I read a page. 
  • In class I often begin a chapter book as a read aloud and let the students finish it on their own. They love this. Begin reading and once you have grabbed a child’s interest put the book down and go about your chores encouraging the child to go ahead and read it.
What are a few of your favorite children's books?
Some of my most recent favorites are Rosie Revere Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect by Andrea Beaty illustrated by David Roberts. Every month I have an 'Invention Convention' where students are given simple guidelines and must come up with a creation using the recycled items I have brought in. These books are perfect for that project. 

You must read Shel Silverstein when teaching poetry and of course The Five Chinese Brothers by Claire Huchet Bishop when teaching folklore.

Sketch from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, HarperCollins Publishers


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