How to Improve Reading Comprehension For Beginner Readers
Reading comprehension is a fundamental skill at all educational levels, more so for beginner readers ages 6 to 8 to begin their learning journey. For beginner readers, learning to read makes way for picking up new vocabulary, which can help in communication with other people.
Moreover, reading helps kids develop self-confidence and self-esteem, as well as improve their ability to concentrate. But reading can be difficult for some students who struggle to decode words or lack the motivation to read. Here are some practical ways you can help your beginner reader/s become an avid reader/s!
What is reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension is understanding the text and correlating what is read with the existing knowledge. It involves,
- Identifying words
- Knowing the meaning of words
- Understanding the message conveyed in sentences
- Extracting the main idea of the text
- Having some background knowledge (schema) of the topic
- Relating the main idea of the text with existing knowledge or personal experience
- Understanding the text’s structure
- Identifying the story’s elements
- Finding the author’s purpose
- Feel the tone of the text
- Recognise the clues in the text
- Making inferences from the text
Moving further, did you know the New Education Policy (2020) of India emphasizes learning 21st century skills and developing reading habits in children? It stresses the importance of reading skills that are fundamental for understanding and interpreting information. Well, to develop conscious and mindful reading that fosters critical and creative thinking, it’s imperative that kids learn reading skills early in their life.
Let’s find what are these reading skills.
Improve reading comprehension by understanding how to read
Comprehension is the mental activity of understanding of text and process its details so that the text can be interpreted in one’s own words. Reading comprehension is a skill that encompasses several smaller interconnected skills. These micro reading skills help break down the text to understand the nuances of the text.
As a beginner reads, the message is sent to the brain where it is processed and understood with the help of past experiences and previous knowledge. When a reader can not fully understand what they are reading, it is difficult for them to retain the information they are reading. So what are the reading skills that aid in understanding the text?
To begin with, identifying words is a new and exhausting task for young beginner readers ages 6 to 8. For teaching young learners to identify letters, words, sentences and message in a paragraph, educators have to apply many teaching techniques and methods. For this, education experts use methods that appeal to a variety of learning styles like
- Visual: Young individuals learn by visual aid of illustrations, pictures or flashcards.
- Auditory: Sound/listening to words, stories or concepts
- Kinesthetic: This type of learner need movement to learn
- Verbal: Retelling and verbalising helps in learning words
Using a variety of these learning styles help to associate words with spellings and meanings. This builds the knowledge or schema of the young learners. Additionally, for kids between ages 3 to 8, a variety of alphabet books, picture books and chapter books help to identify words and learn new vocabulary. In first grade reading, decoding words is the primary goal. As the fluency in decoding words develops with time and age, little readers begin to comprehend as a result.
Knowing the meaning of words
To understand the text, it’s critical to know word meanings. At home, word meanings are understood by listening to the context, using a variety of words in regular speech and most importantly, reading frequently. In school, observing “large print” word-based displays and other strategic teaching practices help increase the knowledge of words and their meanings.
Understanding the message conveyed in sentences
While reading a text, the variety of words, concepts, events and information can be overwhelming to a beginner reader. So understanding the message conveyed in sentences needs reading critically and re-visiting the text multiple times. As beginner readers are equipped with the practice of identifying details by “asking questions during reading”, their reading comprehension gets better.
The beginner readers get trained with regular questioning, which impacts their academic learning outcomes as well. Asking questions based on the passage act as a prompt for a deeper understanding of the text. Its an example of a reading comprehension strategy for beginner readers. Lets’s read further to know more strategies.
The main idea of the text
To find the main idea of the passage or book, ask some questions that will make readers think deeper.
For instance, in the case of a fiction book, ask
- Can you tell from the title, what the book is about?
- Do you find the book funny or do you find it inspiring?
- Is the author describing something?
- Who are the characters or what the text is about?
- What happens to the characters?
- Is the text about something real or imaginary?
- Are there any real photographs or sketches in the book?
- How do the characters solve their problems?
- Can you relate the important events in the story to your life?
- Has something similar happened with you?
- Is there a problem in the story and how is it solved?
- How will you solve a similar problem?
- Can you predict what will happen next?
- Why did the story end this way?
- What ending would you give to the story?
- How would you summarise the story?
Beginner readers love to answer such questions thereby improving their reading comprehension. It is ok if the beginner readers do not have satisfactory answers to these questions, what is important is that it makes them think. As reading and writing skills develop, readers can retell the main idea or paraphrase and summarise the text.
To find the main idea in a non-fiction book
In the case of non-fiction books like “Seasons”, “Life cycle of a butterfly”, “Transport”, you can ask questions like,
- Does the text describe something?
- Are there pencil sketches, maps or real pictures?
- Can you tell why the author has written this book?
- How does it work?
- Which are the steps?
- Are things similar or different from each other?
- What is the sequence of events?
- Can you explain what changes happen?
- Is there any time when things happen or any order to the events?
- What is the reason for the change and what is its effect?
- Can you explain what is the purpose of reading this book?
- Which are your favourite word meanings given in the glossary at the end of the book? Can you make new sentences with those words?
- Can you tell what the book is about?
Regular questioning makes readers read in a manner to find answers.
Having some background knowledge (schema) of the topic
Schema is the background information you know about something. For instance, the books you read and interactions you have with people are part of your schema. In short, all our life experiences are part of our schema. So when we read any text, we refer to our schema or previous information for reference, to co-relate with the new information.
This way we make connections of new and older information for a better understanding of something. Likewise, we can have a schema for authors, a schema for topics, a schema for genres and so on. Schema is ever-changing as new information is added to the existing knowledge.
Relating the main idea of the text with existing knowledge or personal experience
When readers relate their personal experiences to what they read, comprehension is better. Relating new information to previous experience or knowledge helps in understanding the problems of the characters in fiction books.
To comprehend non-fiction text, complex concepts need to be separated into smaller parts or steps. Understanding the text structure helps in this regard. Previous background knowledge in the topic of the non-fiction book helps to understand the context.
Understand the text’s structure
Some message, story or information is conveyed in any text. Decoding lengthy text requires identifying the text structure used by the author. Authors organise the information using structures, so understanding these structures aids comprehension. Common text structures used by authors in the text are,
- Cause and effect
- Compare and contrast
- Problem and solution.
In the descriptive text, details are described so the reader can visualise. In fiction, authors describe details of characters and the places. Sequence refers to steps or order of things or events. Cause and effect establish a connection between why something happened. Compare and contrast refers to when the author compares something as similar to different from each other.
“Problem and solution” refer to some difficulties faced by the story characters and how it is solved. Certain words act as signals or clues to indicate the usage of these text structures.
Beginner readers identify the story elements for better reading comprehension
Fiction stories have certain literary elements that are distinct. These are called story elements.
Characters are the people, animals, ghosts, witches or whomsoever the story is about. The setting is the place where the story events take place. Generally, in a good story, the main characters face some difficulty and the drama is about how the problem is solved.
All these elements make the story plot engaging. The story’s plot has a beginning, middle and end. The characters are introduced and the setting is described somewhere at the beginning. The problem in the story starts building after the initial introduction and peaks towards the middle of the story. In the end, the problem is solved. The drama or the important part of a story is the problem and how it is solved.
Finding the author’s purpose
An author’s purpose is the reason why an author chose to write the text, for instance, it can be to persuade, inform or entertain. Note that, there could be more than one reason for writing a book. Commonly, non-fiction text in advertisements persuades the readers to buy something.
Similarly, In children’s books, if the author is trying to convince (or influence) the young readers about something, then the purpose is to persuade the readers. The author’s purpose in a non-fiction book like “Polar Bears”, is to inform the readers about some facts on the polar bear.
In a fiction book, the author’s purpose is to entertain the reader. Many fiction books like moral stories and folk tales educate the readers on values along with entertainment. Identifying the purpose behind any text helps young readers to think critically, evaluate and take decisions accordingly.
Find the tone of the text
It means does the text make you feel anxious about what’s going to happen next? Or does the text make you laugh out loud? So, what’s the mood created in the reader’s mind? that is the tone of the text. The author’s choice of words, sentence structure and descriptive style can create a mood while reading the text.
Tone can be,
Recognise the clues in the text
The authors use context clues in the text so their write-up makes sense to the readers. What are these clues? These are context clues like definitions, pictures or illustrations, examples, synonyms, antonyms, metaphors, prefixes, suffixes, and contrast.
Making inferences from the text
To make inferences, a reader uses the knowledge of previous experiences, the story elements, text structure, authors purpose, tone, and the main idea of the text. Comprehending a text involves identifying and understanding many literary elements. In the case of new readers, fluency in word recognition makes way for learning other literary elements in easy steps.
After this step, gradually, readers can identify if the text is entertaining or informative. With practice, young readers can retell the description, organize the sequence, tell the tone of the text, draw inferences, paraphrase and summarize the text.
Equipped with this information, the readers can make connections between the literary elements and draw inferences from the book or text passage. Reading skills include recognising these literary elements and making connections between them, a habit learners develop by the time they reach middle grades.
Understand the importance of reading
Reading skills can be learnt by anyone. Despite this, it is not always easy. Some learners have trouble reading because of learning disabilities, or simply because they are not motivated to read. However, it is important to encourage reading in all young learners.
Children learn new vocabulary by regular reading habits, thereby helping them in their communication with other people. Reading also helps develop self-confidence and self-esteem in young kids, as well as improve their ability to concentrate. It can also help them learn about the world around them.
The habit of regular reading is also important because it helps improve literacy skills. Literacy skills are most needed for success in school and life. One way to help beginner readers become avid readers is to make sure they read every day. By reading every day, reading skills improve and they learn new vocabulary.
Beginner readers should read books that are of their level or that they find interesting. Reading aloud is a good way to practice pronunciation, develop fluency and creative imagination.
Best practices to encourage reading and comprehension in beginner readers
Provide books of varying levels of difficulty. If your child is struggling with a book, find one that is easier. Here are certain actionable suggestions that can aid you as a parent.
Read to beginner readers
This is a great way to improve reading comprehension.It can help them understand the context of words and the sound of those words. They will be able to use the new vocabulary in their daily lives.
Make a “reading routine” at home to encourage reading culture in children. Set a time for reading at home, so reading becomes a regular habit. While travelling, remember to carry light fiction and non-fiction books that kids will enjoy reading or listening to at intervals.
A reading routine can include reading aloud for about 20 minutes every evening, then letting the child have fun reading on their own for 10 more minutes.
This routine can help beginner readers develop reading independence and improve their comprehension of what they are reading. You can reward them for their reading independence. As a parent, reading aloud to your kid also allows you to talk about the book with your child.
Discuss the story with beginner readers for better reading comprehension
You can ask questions about the content and compare the book to other books they have read. Asking leading questions, having discussions, giving clues, storytelling, and reading aloud are strategies that help to evaluate the text and identify the details.
Most importantly, this will help develop a positive attitude toward reading. For beginner readers to comprehend what they read, they need to be supported and scaffolded by the teacher and parents.
Encourage your child to read independently
Reading together, with a parent/sibling or friend makes the reading activity fun for beginner readers. Moreover, when they face new words there is help nearby. Reading doesn’t have to be a solitary activity.
Take turns reading out loud with your child. Reading with your child will help them become more fluent readers and better comprehend what they are reading.
That being said, it is also important that beginner readers gradually start reading independently. For this, support them by providing storybooks of age-appropriate reading level with large print text and full-page colour illustrations.
The stories should be adequately relatable to their life experiences so they are charmed by the world of books and stories. Slowly, introduce a variety of books with age-appropriate non-fiction topics.
If they need help, provide it while still letting them read independently. This way they can build their reading fluency and confidence to challenge themselves that will improve their comprehension.
We read what are some practical ways to help beginner readers become avid readers. Let’s review some points. First, you can allow children to read at their own pace. When kids are not interested, they will not read. So, be patient.
Second, you can let children pick out their reading material with topics that interest them. Third, you can read to your children every day with enthusiasm and expression. Fourth, you can help children read along with you by pointing out words, sounding them out, and reading without expression.
Finally, make sure your child is in a comfortable environment with no distractions (television, cell phones), which is relatively quiet. After these steps, your child should be well on their way to becoming an avid reader!
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