I have been an educator for 20 years and within that time, I have had the opportunity to teach many kindergarten and first grade students how to read. Many teachers and parents have listened to a child read fluently and wonder why the child is not comprehending anything that is being read. I have pondered this question many times and I have finally come to realize that students are not being taught how to comprehend as young readers. Many may disagree and say, “Yes, I have. I ask the students comprehension questions.” They just don’t know how to answer them. If it is a recall question, where the answer is within the text of the passage, why is it that the students can not find the answer. Is it because the child can not really read? Is it that the child has learned how to identify words and read them as fast as they can without thinking about what they are reading?
Experts say fluency helps because it bridges the word recognition and comprehension skills. If a child can recognize a word and read 100 words or more in a minute, does it really cause comprehension, will the child actually know the correct meaning of the word because they have heard it several times or may have seen it in several stories? I question this theory because many fluent readers are not comprehending text. I think it is because they do not understand the steps or proper steps they should take while reading. When I was in school, I remember not being able to comprehend. My teachers in elementary school saw me as the quiet child, a joy to teach, and a well behaved child. Because I was well behaved, did not make any problems for the teacher, and I was making all A’s, it was difficult to tell that I had a problem with reading.
For those reasons, I am very passionate about children and their capability to read words and remember what they are reading about. Below are two suggestions for to help beginning readers. There are other things that would help, but I recommend starting with these because they are the simplest.
Doing the following suggestions, will help ensure that your child will be able to be a reader and not a word caller. I define a reader as one who can look at text and comprehend the meaning of the text, whereas a word caller is one who can look at text and say the word and is unable to understand the meaning of the words. We want to make sure children are readers and not getting by with calling words and not having a clue what they are saying.
Model the reading process
Model to students are to think about their reading while reading. For example, you would read the first page of the story and say ‘I wonder what this page of the story was about. Who are the characters?’ Then say the name of the characters in a complete sentence. Then say, ‘What is the setting?’ Then say the setting in a complete sentence. Ask other questions that would relate to the first page and then talk to the child about it, so they can understand these are the types of questions and answers they should be giving in order to understand the meaning of a story.
Discuss the story
Keep in mind learning is a social activity. Individuals should to talk to others about what they are reading and how it is like something in their life or someone else’s life or even in the world. These things will help with students’ critical thinking skills. The earlier students begin thinking about the reading, the easier it will become for them.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I would read to her and talk to her about the story then. I believe that is why she is stronger in reading than any other subject due to talking to her when she was in her baby stages. I understand that your day may be hectic and you may not have time to read a whole book, but who says you need to read the entire story. Read, model, and discuss what you can with the child and read the rest of the story later. Then when you go back to the story later or the next day, ask the child the same questions you talked about previously and see if he or she remembers the answers. Doing this will help you to see if your child is able to keep the information in their long term memory.
Reading comprehension is an important life skill. As a parent and a teacher, I want our children to be ready for the world. Like Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ Let’s starting changing the world, one reader at a time.