Mastering effective reading and comprehension from an early age is an invaluable skill that will set your child up for greater academic and professional success. Many kids (and teenagers) recoil in fear the moment they hear the word comprehension, but it doesn’t have to be this way. Learning this skill can be both rewarding and fun.
There are techniques that can help your child to read more effectively and thus better understand or comprehend text. Of course, technique and strategy will only get you so far. Education journalist, novelist and historian Natalie Wexler says that we are teaching reading and comprehension all wrong. In the rest of this article, we will explore some of the methods and ideas that you can use to equip your child with this important skill.
Build a Solid Foundation
Before learning to read and comprehend text effectively, your child must first master some other foundational skills. These include:
- Learning to identify critical vs non-critical information on a written and auditory level
- Learning to identify keywords on a written and auditory level
The Seven Secrets of Effective Reading and Comprehension
Comprehension tasks can be both daunting and extremely dull for children. Lots of text, few to no pictures and loads of questions – what could go wrong? Training their brain to view the challenge differently can help your child to approach this sticky task with a winning perspective. Below are 7 amazing techniques that you can teach your child to set them on the road to mastering effective reading and comprehension:
Become a detective
What child doesn’t love the idea of putting on their sleuth hat and solving a puzzle? Help your child to see comprehension tasks as a riddle that needs to be solved. The answers are always in the text and a good detective never leaves a crime unsolved!
Find clues in the pictures
Fortunately, most comprehension tasks for younger children will include some pictures. Even more advanced tests will often use excerpts from newspapers, magazines or other mediums that contain at least some images. Most of our brains respond more readily to pictures than text. Remind your child to extract as much information as possible from the images available. After all, a picture says a thousand words right?
Study the title and notice keywords
After analysing the pictures your child will already have a basic idea of what the text is going to be about. The next step is to check whether their interpretation of the images matches with the title. This can add an element of fun in and of itself. A title should tell readers what the text is about and normally contains keywords that will be important to understanding why it was written. Learning to identify this important information will help your child with the next steps.
Any good detective knows that recording important is a surefire way to join the dots and put together the big picture! After looking at the images and analysing the title, your child should makes some notes about what they have learned so far. This will help them to stay on track once they start reading. It will also allow their mind to begin framing the text in the right context.
Check the questions
This is another technique that will help to provide context and give your child clues as to what they should be looking for once they begin reading the main body of the text. This will become even more important as they progress to higher tiers of education where texts become substantially longer and more complicated.
Find keywords in the questions
This is one of the reasons why learning keyword identification before attempting to master comprehension is so important. Your child needs to highlight the most important words and phrases in the questions so that they understand what information they need to look out for as they read.
The most complicated skill to master, but the one that brings the greatest rewards, is being able to match the keywords identified in the questions to their counterparts in the main body of the text. Most adults fail to use this technique effectively! Mastering keyword matching at an early age will provide your child with an effective reading and comprehension tool that lasts a lifetime.
But all these secrets are pointless if your child fails to remember them. To help them lock these secrets into long-term memory, try using the Key Image Technique. It is also important to note that some research has shown that reading from screens can reduce comprehension.
About the Author
Kath lives with her husband and 3 young children in a small coastal town in South Africa. She is a speech therapist, who worked in London, Private Practices in Cape Town and KZN and then finally taught at Livingstone Remedial School in KZN, South Africa for 3 years. During this time, Daren Denholm, her memory guru husband, trained her up to compete with him at the 2011 World Memory Championships in China, while she was 6 months pregnant with their first child! The Chinese competitors complained that she was cheating because she had 2 brains. She sat next to the youngest competitor, a 9 year old Chinese girl. It was at this point that the Online Little Genius Puppets program was conceived.
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