Reading is much more than reciting words that one sees on paper. Even before a reader achieves phonemic awareness and phonics, he’s learning to comprehend, understand, internalize and make connections. These are the essential stages necessary to teach kids to read, and to reach success in reading. How can parents help? By reading with children and encouraging reading and discussion time. And by recognizing the most four most important reading questions to ask themselves and their child’s teachers.
While a child learns to read the letters and sounds, he continues to practice his comprehension skills. So much time is spent teaching students that symbols that are called letters make sounds and these sounds push together to make words, it’s often forgotten that those word-sounds won’t make very much of a difference if a child doesn’t comprehend what he’s reading.
At a meeting with our school principal, we discussed my son’s progress in school and his reading abilities. I was reminded of some very basic questions regarding reading.
The Modus Operandi* of the reading process
Modus Operandi is a latin term meaning “mode of operating or working.” dictionary.com. For the purpose of teaching reading skills and talking with parents, I created the term Modus Operandi of Reading.
- Is he able to read?
- Is he comprehending?
- Does he internalize the stories?
- How does he express connections?
Is he able to read?
Reading is a several-step process. Parents of budding readers, no matter a child’s skill or quickness to initiate and embrace the reading process, need to recognize that students reach an independent reading level at different times and ages. Answering the question “is he able to read?”, while seemingly simple to answer, is quite an in depth one. Reading success isn’t only the sounds of the letters, it’s an entire process that includes recognizing that the sounds make words which together make a story and truly understanding the story that he reads or listens to. Only when a child can read and understand, is he truly able to read.
Is he comprehending?
Comprehension and understanding go hand-in-hand. A child who listens to what others say, or what he reads, and acts on that knowledge or responds to it, is showing signs of comprehending.
Parents can help to improve children’s comprehension by reading books with kids and discussing them. Ask questions relating to what the child just read to ensure the child was doing more than reciting or skimming over words. Instill good reading habits by taking breaks and discussing what happened and predicting what may happen next.
Does he internalize the stories he reads?
The next step in reading is when a child takes the story or knowledge and applies it internally. Think back to a time that your dreams revolved around a story that you’ve read or imagined or you began imagining yourself as a part of the story. When a story becomes a part of a reader and lives within, he internalized the reading.
For example, when I was reading the Harry Potter novels, I became so engrossed in the story, that I’d dream myself of a part of the story at night. There were times I’d wake in the middle of the night, suddenly, lost because I had been running through the halls of Hogwarts. This is an example of truly internalizing stories.
Internalizing doesn’t always reach as far as a dream, however. Often, during a break, activate your child’s imagination and ask “if you were standing with [main character’s name], would you have done what he did?” This is a great strategy for non-fiction, as well.
How does he express his connections to the story?
The final step in the modus operandi is reached when a reader takes the story and makes a connection to his own life or surroundings. A child who is reading a story of Greek Mythology may begin explaining that a seed is sprouting with the help of Persephone or a bolt of lightening represents the anger of Zeus. In these cases, the reader is connecting his life and his surroundings to something that he read.
The best way to encourage connections is to lead by example. Perhaps you read a magazine article about something of interest to you, such as photography. Show your child how you’re using what you learned in the article in your daily life. Alternatively, show a connect when to a fiction story by telling a story of your life, that the fiction story triggered as a memory.
How can parents assist children to progress through the Modus Operandi of reading?
It’s important to remember that reading comprehension is much more than learning letter sounds or even reading the words in a book out loud. Continue to read to your child to help them improve their listening comprehension skills which will, in turn, strengthen their reading skills. Have conversations about what they are reading. Challenge children often with new stories, rather than repeating old favorites again and again. (There’s nothing wrong with repeating old favorites, but throw in some new stories to assess their skills.)
Most important is to make reading a part of your family lifestyle. It’s not just reading for 20 minutes before bed, but discussing how reading fits into your daily life throughout the day.
© 2015, Julie Meyers Pron. All rights reserved.