As my kids get older we have slowly moved away from working on the actual mechanics of reading. Instead, the focus has shifted to understanding and analyzing the text and characters, not a process that comes naturally to my kids. Here are some of the ways I approach reading with my kids to help them with reading comprehension at a deeper level.
Even when kids are older and reading fluently, I’ve found that it’s important to continue to read aloud to them. For a while, I stopped reading aloud to my 8 year old because I thought I didn’t need to any more. However, I’ve resumed reading to him at bedtime again ever since his teacher let me know how much he enjoys the classroom read-aloud time. Not only have we rediscovered cuddle-time, I’ve found that reading aloud with an older child has many, many benefits:
- Gets him interested in a good story. Many times the cover of a book does not grab his interest. Or he’s intimidated by a book that looks too wordy and voluminous. If I think he’ll like it, I pick it up and start reading it aloud to him. More often than not, he gets hooked on to the story and will pick up the book and finish it himself without waiting for me to resume our read aloud the next day.
- Builds Vocabulary. My son will usually ignore or skip a challenging word if he’s reading by himself but when I read aloud, he hears me pronounce it correctly and we try and guess what it means from the context. If he is unable to guess what it means, we look it up in the dictionary together. He now has a tool to look up a word even if I’m not around to explain it to him.
- Helps Learning to Read with Expression. I read with expression when I read aloud to my kids and get them to take turns doing the same. It makes it fun for all of us! It also provokes some good discussions on punctuation and how it influences our reading and expressions.
- Provides Practice forming opinions and expressing them. When reading together, we stop often and talk about the turn of events or the behavior of the characters. This is very interesting to me because it gives me an insight into my kids’ opinions and interpretation of the story. It is also great practice for the classroom – kids are often asked to express an opinion about a situation and character and provide evidence from the text that supports the opinion. Asking questions such as "Why do you think he/she did that?" or "Do you think it was the right thing to do - why/why not?" help them to think more deeply about the story.
Keep the Picture Books Alive
From 6-7 years of age, kids become very keen to read chapter books. Picture books can be considered 'babyish' by some. But, as my son's 2nd grade teacher pointed out - picture books such as The Mixed Up chameleon by Eric Carle, or The Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan pack in complex interactions and character changes in one short story whereas chapter books (especially series) tend to be more predictable.
Picture books are also a way for us to enjoy some beautiful artwork with our kids so try not to put them away too soon. Plus for the child who is transitioning to chapter books, picture books are a way to relax and enjoy a story when reading a chapter book gets too tough. If there is too much resistance towards the picture books, get your child to read to a younger sibling or to you.
Some picture books may be better geared towards older kids –non-fiction books can pack in a lot of information with pictures that illustrate concepts and ideas. One of my son’s recent favorites is So You Want to Be an Inventor? by Judith St George and David Small. Also, some Fiction picture books for instance – the Amelia Bedelia series or a childhood favorite like Stellaluna by Janell Cannon are appreciated by older kids as they enjoy wordplay or ideas and characters at a deeper level than a toddler.
Introduce Short Reading Comprehension passages
Short reading comprehension exercises at varying levels of difficulty can help your child sharpen his or her comprehension skills. You want kids to start making inferences so passages which do not directly contain information but require the reader to deduce the information can take understanding the passage to the next level. Sites such as ReadTheory.org are great in providing different levels of passages. See more of our resources in our article - Top websites for Reading Comprehension.
For more information, you can also read our article on building basic reading comprehension skills for your kids.