Simply stringing letters and words together is not enough. For students to really be able to read, they need to understand, or comprehend, what they read at each grade level, from kindergarten through college. There are a number of skills involved in reading comprehension. Parents who help their students achieve these skills using a checklist will help them to better understand what they read, allowing them a better chance at success in school.
Prereading is an important reading comprehension skill that seasoned readers do automatically. When we pick up a newspaper, for instance, we automatically know how it is structured (with the most important information on the first page), what kind of information will be included (such as the news and classifieds) and what kind of writing to expect (informative reportage). Novice readers, however, have to practice doing this. They must look at headings, publication information and titles to get an idea of what the writing is about. This prepares their minds to take in the information that will be presented.
Anticipating and Predicting
As they read, students should be thinking about what might be coming next. According to Marin College, this helps students to solidify their information if they are right, and, if their predictions are wrong, it helps them to move from misunderstanding to comprehension more quickly. Anticipating and predicting is closely tied to annotating and notetaking. When students write their anticipations and predictions in the margins or in a notebook, they can use their notes to determine when they actually begin to understand a piece. Then, they can focus on strategies that will help them come to an understanding earlier in the reading when they read something else.
According to Special Connections, students make meaning out of a text by "decoding the writer's words and then using background knowledge." Students whose background knowledge is limited, then, must seek information outside of the text to help them understand. For instance, if a student determines during prereading that a piece is a letter from a soldier in the Civil War and the student has never learned about the Civil War, she should understand that she needs to read an encyclopedia entry on the war before continuing. Encyclopedia entries, summaries of classic works, reviews and other readings on the subject can be excellent sources for framing reading.
Application and Connection
To understand what they read, students must be able to apply it and to make connections between a variety of works. Students should be able to discuss several pieces of reading and determine how they work together to create a picture of an idea or event. For example, students should be able to connect the letter from a Civil War solider and the Civil War encyclopedia article with the textbook's chapter on the Civil War. They should be able to discuss the similarities and differences between these pieces of writing and how they each informed their understanding of the Civil War. Then, students should be able to apply their readings to the lessons on the Civil War in history class and the poster project they must complete for homework.
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