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Learning to Read

Conversation and Comprehension
March 5, 2018 By M. J. Maynard

"Comprehension" is a term that is widely used by educators. It is simply an alternative word for saying that a child understands what they have read. Comprehension is the ultimate goal of reading. The reading process is futile unless a child gathers meaning from the written material.

We tend to think of comprehension as being an important skill in later grades, after a child learns the fundamentals of decoding words. But, comprehension is possible, and necessary, even in early reading with the simplest of books.

Parents can lay a foundation for reading comprehension through everyday conversations. Asking questions can build a curiosity that encourages learning. Awaken their thinking and get them to noticing the world around them with questions like these:

  • "Which animal looks the funniest?"
  • "How are an orange and an apple alike?'
  • "Would you rather go exploring in the ocean or in space?"

Listening to books read aloud naturally leads to conversation about the story. This is a real form of comprehension. Have a child retell the story to you to show their understanding. Then you can ask some deeper level questions such as, "What do you think will happen next?"

When your child begins to read books, you can still talk about the content, even if there is not very much print. You can discuss the pictures, and what looks similar on each page. If the book is patterned, you could find ways that the language is the same, and if there is a place when it changes. When they finish reading, go back to the title, and talk about how it connects with the story.

Comprehension is a reading skill, but in the early years, the discussing the story is what activates understanding. So, when it is book reading time with your little one, plan to add a conversation session, too. You will be developing a successful future reader!

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