By Ginny Osewalt
Good readers are active readers. When your child has a hard time understanding what she reads, instruction can help. Here are some strategies to try.
Connecting what your child already knows while she reads sharpens her focus and deepens understanding. Show her how to make connections by sharing your own connections as you read aloud. Maybe the book mentions places you’ve been together on vacation. Talk about your memories of those places. Invite your child to have a turn. Remind your child that good readers make all kinds of connections as they read.
Asking questions will make your child want to look for clues in the text. Pose questions that will spark your child’s curiosity as you read aloud. Frequently ask her, “What are you wondering?” Jot down those “wonderings” and then see how they turn out. Remind your child that good readers challenge what they’re reading by asking questions.
Creating visual images brings the text alive. These “mind movies” make the story more memorable. You can help your child do this by reading aloud and describing the pictures you’re seeing in your own imagination. Use all five senses and emotions. Invite your child to share her “mind movies.” Notice how they’re different from yours. You might even ask your child to draw what’s in her imagination.
We “infer” by combining what we already know with clues from a story. For example, when we read, “Her eyes were red and her nose was runny,” we can infer that she has a cold or allergies. You can help your child with this reading skill by predicting what might happen in the story as you read aloud. Then invite your child to do the same.
Determining what’s important is central to reading. When you read a story with your child, you might download a “story element” organizer. You can use it to keep track of the main characters, where the story is taking place, and the problem and solution of the story. Nonfiction texts look different from fiction. They’re organized with features like the table of contents, headings, bold print, photos and the index.
Readers who monitor their own reading use strategies to help them when they don’t understand something. Teach your child how to “click and clunk.” Read together and ask her to hold up one finger when the reading is making sense (click) and two fingers when meaning breaks down (clunk). To repair the “clunks,” use these “fix-up” strategies:
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Ginny Osewalt is a public school teacher in New Jersey, where she is certified both in elementary education and in special education.
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