Reading comprehension is a skill that must be inculcated in early childhood. Here's how you can go about it.
By Hannah S Mathew
Reading comprehension is the ability to develop an understanding and gain meaning from what you read. It involves vocabulary, understanding of the text, fluency and pronunciation. It is a significant component of your child’s functional literacy and will help her later when reading official documents. Thus, reading comprehension contributes directly to her productivity and well-being.
Proficiency in reading comprehension does not develop naturally in a child but needs effort on his part and support from the parent. Here are some factors to keep in mind as you help him master this essential skill.
Common problems children complain about while reading are:
So, what can you do to help your child overcome these hurdles? Here are some pointers that will help you and your child address these problems efficiently.
1. Read frequently
Your child may not get some words right the first few times or skip words or entire phrases initially. In the beginning, it’ll also take him more time than necessary to read. Remember, that these are initial hiccups he’ll face until he masters his reading comprehension skills. So, instead of fixating on these matters, ensure that he reads a lot because that’s what really matters.
2. Strengthen vocabulary
Teach your child to spot key words and help her understand how they can be modified to turn into new words. For example, by adding prefixes and suffixes like ‘un’, ‘er’ and ‘ly’ to the word ‘kind’, you can make new words that hold different meanings. Allow her to predict the meaning of words based on the context of her reading. This will help her understand new words and their context.
3. Eliminate boredom
Today, there’s a lot of variety available when it comes to choosing something to read. Help your child explore the kind of reading material that will challenge him, keep his attention and pique his curiosity. He can try small passages, knowledge-based text, short stories, movie reviews, poetry, comic books and audio books. Always help him choose a reading material that challenges him to learn more. Increase the complexity of the reading material as he grows more proficient and confident in his reading.
4. Build her imagination
As your child grows, she should be able to understand text without the help of pictures. Help her use her imagination to visualise what she reads. This will help improve her fluency in reading and knowledge of words and phrases.
5. Help him explore
If your child likes a topic, let him explore the subject further. For example, if he likes reading about astronauts and space, encourage him to read more on related topics like astronaut training and food in outer-space. This will encourage him to build his knowledge bank by reading more.
6. Motivate her
Simply stringing words together and reading them aloud is not sufficient. Your child needs to be motivated to make an effort to truly understand what she reads. Affix paper-clips or markers to signify milestones and appreciate her as she crosses each one. Reward her when she finishes a book. Discuss the books she reads in your daily conversations, so she knows that they are of value.
7. Read aloud
Encourage your child to read out aloud. This way, you can also help him with his pronunciation. He will also find it easier to manage his speed of reading.
8. Be alert
Your child needs to be alert when she reads, in order to enhance her reading comprehension. Ask her to do some pre-reading activities, like reading the name of the author, recalling if she has read any other books by the same author, finding the year the book’s been printed and seeing how old the book is. Discuss the topic of the book broadly with her. As she finishes a chapter or a section, ask her a question relevant to what she has read. If she is old enough to make notes, ask her to do so while reading.
9. Keep conversing
Build a word wall by sticking post-its on a wall with new words written on them. These words could be something your child has recently discovered or learnt. Use these words in your conversations as much as possible. The aim is to make him comfortable about using new words in everyday conversations. Listen for inconsistencies in tense and definitions and make sure you use the correct forms in your sentences.
10. Ask questions
One sure way of making your child understand what she reads is by asking her questions. Use questions to draw her attention to finer details in the book or the paper, that may have escaped her notice. Reverse roles, and let her ask you questions based on the book as well.
In a world full of digital devices and platforms, reading has become an even more important activity for your child. Let him take his time and be patient with him as he develops his reading comprehension skills. If he has been struggling with reading for a long time, consider meeting an expert for more concentrated exercises.
Hannah S Mathew is an assistant professor of English, a freelance writer, soft skills trainer, learning content developer, mentor, diagnostic counsellor and a devoted mother to a teenager.
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