By Julie Diamond
Does your child understand the book they’re reading? Here are some ways to check:
1. Answer questions: Read the back of the book or skim a few pages then ask your child questions.
2. Make connections: “This character reminds me of…”, “When _________it was the same as this other book I read when they did ___________” or “When the family was stuck in their house it’s similar to us being stuck inside now.” If your child is able to put themselves in the character’s shoes and compare it to things, events and people they know, they understand.
3. See what you read: Get your child to describe what they see when they read. Encourage them to make a movie in their mind and use their senses to experience the story.
4. Be curious and ask questions: Good readers are curious and ask questions which help make predictions. “I wonder…”, “Why did that happen?” or “Maybe the character felt this way because…”
5. Make inferences together: An inference is when you predict what will happen based on what is implied in the story. Look for hints. “I think _______ will happen because the author wrote _______.” For example, if your child read about a character who has a diaper in her hand, spit-up on her shirt, and a bottle warming on the counter you could infer the character is a mother.
Some readers don't know what to do when they are confused so they continue reading. However, there are things you can teach your child to do when they don't understand a book. For example, they could:
1. Go back and start at the beginning of the page or chapter.
2. Stop reading and use a reading strategy listed above.
3. Ask for guidance from an adult and/or someone who has read the book. They can see how much they have understood so far.
4. If none of the above seem to help, they may want to decide whether or not this book is above their reading level. Do they understand the vocabulary? Are they familiar/comfortable with this author's writing style? If not, then they might want to choose another book.
The best way to introduce these strategies to your child is to model them yourself. Start with one strategy at a time while you’re reading a book together and build from there.
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.
Julie Diamond speaking at the OISE conference for Alternative, Innovative and Inspiring Career Paths for Teachers at the University of Toronto.
Jenna Srigley is the administrative assistant at Teachers to Go and offers invaluable insight as a mom of 2 teens.