Here are a few suggestions to help with comprehension of fiction:
- Before working with your child, skim the story or get a summary (there are free online study guides for longer works of fiction). This will help you guide the reading.
- Make connections: What aspects of the story remind you of situations in your own life and your child’s life?
- Help your child make predictions about what the characters will do next.
- Raise questions about motives (Why are characters acting this way?).
- Emphasize discussion and real engagement with the story.
- Use a highlighter and write notes in the margins (or use sticky notes).
- Make a mental movie of the story and encourage your child to do this. Check the details of this movie through ongoing discussion.
- Do a vocabulary study (emphasize words to images)
Many children read casually and fail to pay close attention to the text. As the questions in school get more abstract, the child’s attention gets worse. This can be very frustrating for a parent.
When a child can’t answer comprehension questions, it’s tempting to say, “But you just read that! How can you not know the answer to that question?” This approach doesn’t work. You can teach a child to answer difficult comprehension questions by creating study guides that gradually increase in difficulty. These guides can include partial explanations or clues to get your child started on answering the question.
Use guides as a basis for discussion. The ultimate purpose of the study guide is to help your child to pay closer attention to the story, and this is best accomplished through discussion. Study guides or summaries of most books are easily located on the internet. They are free or reasonably priced.
Reading by Design will help you develop your child’s reading comprehension of both fiction and nonfiction. You will learn the best way to do a vocabulary study, how to create games, how to select readers, audio books and phonics programs. Combine these resources and design a program specific to your child’s needs. A lengthy discussion of techniques for promoting comprehension through writing is in Chapter 11.