For some children, understanding what you read just sort of “happens.”
There they were busily learning how to read words, and then sentences, and then - BOOM.
Somehow those sentences morphed into paragraphs, chapters, and full-length novels that made a lot of sense.
Unfortunately, what those children somehow magically possess needs to be specifically taught to kids with language delays.
The good news is that you can teach children how to improve their reading comprehension skills, as long as you keep in mind the 3 key elements of great reading comprehension:
1. Start from the Whole to the Parts
Children who have language delays are usually visual learners. That means that they learn better when they have the Big Picture first, and details last. In order to help them get a handle on what they’re reading, they need to have an overview of what they’re reading about.
In a school history text, for example, they should first start out by reading the chapter title. Then they should read through the headings and sub-headings, until they get to the end of the chapter.
2. Connect the New to the Old
In order for your child to understand what they read, they need to activate their brain. The more active their brain is when processing the new material, the better they’ll understand the text, and the more they’ll learn.
Encourage your child to talk about or write down, free-style, what they already know about the subject. After that, they can spend a minute or two thinking about questions they might have about the subject.
This might initially be hard for some students, especially ones that are used to being passive thinkers. You can help them by suggesting they reword each chapter heading or subheading into a question.
If, for example, a chapter is titled, “The Brain – the Ultimate Supercomputer,” they can turn this into: “Is the brain a supercomputer? Why is it a supercomputer?”
Then help them think about the characteristics of a computer, which should lead them to the following questions: “Does our brain have a keyboard or mouse? A hard drive?” It doesn’t matter if some of the questions are nonsensical. The point is to free associate, and help your child get those brain juices flowing.
3. Stop and Visualize
It’s not uncommon for kids with reading problems to read through an entire passage without understanding anything. Instead of stopping to check why a particular word or passage doesn’t make sense (and determine its meaning), they continue to plow along, arriving at the end of the text with very little to show for their efforts.
Instead, teach your child how to use their strong visual skills to build reading comprehension. At the end of each sentence or paragraph, they can draw a picture of what the section meant.
It doesn’t really matter how well they draw. The idea is to help them get in the habit of checking for understanding, while at the same time allowing them to use their strong visual system to help them process what they read.
You see? All those years of doodling in notebooks finally paid off.
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