Reading is a core subject in early childhood education. Parents often wonder what they can do to help their preschooler be a successful reader even before he or she begins to read, sometimes resorting to fancy computer software and aggressive reading strategies to help give their child a leg up.
However, simple everyday techniques, such as helping a preschooler understand what is being read to him, are a fun, effective, and developmentally appropriate springboard for reading success. And reading comprehension and sequencing are two pre-reading skills that preschoolers can practice before they can read themselves!
Reading Comprehension is understanding the meaning of the text. Young readers sometimes become so involved in the process of sounding out words, they forget to pay attention to what they are reading about! You can help your child learn to focus on what he reads by reviewing what you read together.
How to practice reading comprehension:
- Wonder Why. When a character does something in a story that is explained later, ask your child why they think the character did it. For example, if you are reading "The Three Billy Goats Gruff", you might ask your child why the troll let the littlest billy goat go over the bridge instead of eating him. As you continue to read, you can see if his guess was correct.
- Notice New Words. When you come across a word your child may not know, stop and ask him what the word means. For example, if you read “There was an enormous crash!” As your child “What does enormous mean?” If he doesn't know, you can explain it to him, then re-read the sentence. This will help him understand the meaning of what is being read and he will begin to feel more confident asking about words he doesn't know. Building a large vocabulary helps with reading because it's much easier to sound out a word that you know than one you have never heard before.
- Reading Review. Before you read a favorite story over again say, “I remember reading this story, but I don’t remember what happens to the pig. Do you?” Your child will surely chime in and tell you what happened, and practice the important skill of retaining and reviewing information.
- Delve into Details. After the story is finished, ask a series of questions about the events and characters. For example: Why did the man hide the book? Who drove the cat to the vet? What happened after recess was over? As you repeatedly engage in these discussions after reading, your child will likely begin to pay more attention to the details of the stories you read (and later, the stories he reads).
Sequencing is the ability to put the events of a story in the order in which they occurred. “Teaching sequencing to early learners is important because logical order of thinking is fundamental to reading and everyday life," says Brenda Strickland, author of Year Round Preschool Reading.
How to practice sequencing:
- Practice Predicting. When reading a story for the first time, ask your child what he thinks will happen next. For example, in "The Gingerbread Man", what does he think will happen after the gingerbread man gets on the fox’s back? If his guess was not correct, you can use this opportunity to have him make up his own version of the story and see how it might end differently. When you have read a story several times, stop and ask if your child knows what is going to happen on the next page.
- Create Sequence Cards. After you have finished reading the story, help your child make sequencing cards for the story. On several pieces of blank paper, you or your child should draw pictures (simple stick-figures will do) to show the main events in the story. Your child can then dictate the words that go along with each picture and you can write them for him. Have him place the cards in order. Start with just 3 cards for the beginning, middle, and end of the story and add more as your child is ready.
- Build Your Own Book. Have your child make books out of his favorite stories. Staple several pieces of paper together and allow your child to dictate the words to you (or he can write the sounds he hears in each word to represent the words). He can draw pictures to add to each page.
By adding just a few simple questions and activities to your story time, you can help your child begin to learn about important reading skills. Practicing reading comprehension and sequencing skills will help your child make sense of what is being read and help him become aware of what is happening in the text. As an added benefit, it will add enjoyment to the time you spend reading with your child!