What if you could read words, but not understand the meaning of a whole sentence? Your reading experience might feel like this: word word word word word word. This has no meaning, so why would you continue reading?
One extremely important part of early literacy is comprehension development - understanding what words mean. Although very young children like preschoolers might not be reading yet, adults can begin to promote children's understanding of story lines. When children understand and enjoy stories, they will be more likely to continue reading for pleasure. Families and teachers can facilitate this very simply by reading a book to a child and asking questions before, during, and after the reading. Asking children questions helps them start thinking about aspects or ideas from stories that they might not have thought of during a simple reading of the text. This way, children will be used to approaching books in a thoughtful way, and when they become independent readers, they will be ready to think about the content of stories, rather than just reading words.
Providing children with rich, enjoyable, and personally meaningful literacy experiences will help them develop comprehension skills. Here are some ideas for getting started:
~Reading one-on-one with children and talking to them or listening to their thoughts throughout a book is a great way to start.
~Storytelling is a wonderful way to connect with a child personally. Families and teachers can tell their own stories or stories that they were told as children. They might also take children to the public library for a children's story time.
~Once children are able to sit and focus on listening to a story, families or teachers can begin to read longer books that require the child to follow a story line for more time than a short picture book. Some great examples of beginning reader books that children would love to listen to are Frog and Toad, Junie B. Jones, and Magic Tree House. Listening to and following longer stories is a great way to develop comprehension skills.
As usual, keep reading and talking with your children!