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Comprehension: How do I help my kids understand what they're reading?

Your little reader might be cruising along in those early chapter books, just starting to sound out words and figure out sight words, or may just be exploring letters. Whatever stage your reader is at, you can start building those comprehension skills! 

In order to know what they’re reading, we need to build up our children's comprehension skills! We can easily do that by asking questions while we read!

In order to know what they’re reading, we need to build up our children's comprehension skills! We can easily do that by asking questions while we read!

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If you have an emergent reader or someone just starting to read, it's not necessary to expose them to words like characters, setting, or plot. You can simply ask:

  • Who was in the story?

  • Where did the story take place?

  • What part of the story made you happy (sad, excited, etc.)

You can see just with these simple questions we are already starting to discuss characters, setting, and even their favorite part but by using language that's on their level. Do not expect your two-year-old to report back "The characters were brown bear, red bird, ...." but they can probably remember a few of the animals and let you know they were listening while you were reading!

The setting of the story is where and when the story takes place. In this case, it can be as simple as "inside" or "outside." If your child realizes the setting is "in a house" or "at the zoo" that's great, and you can chat more about any details they want to give you. Make sure your expectations match your reader's ability. If you have an older preschooler, they should be able to give you a few more details about where the story takes place.

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You can (and should!) start developing your child’s comprehension skills from a young age. Click through to download this bookmark to help you ask questions while you read to your child.

Emotional literacy, or being aware of and understanding your own feelings, is a HUGE topic for a whole separate post! Just know that books are great tools to introduce some of those harder concepts like feeling jealous, sad, or scared. If you are reading a book where there is a clear dominant feeling, you can ask your child about it. You can even start having them make connections to stories by asking, "Have you ever felt that way before?"

Books are a great way to start conversations and have meaningful discussions with your little ones. Even the youngest readers can start to think about and understand the story you are reading aloud to them. So cuddle up with a good book and start asking questions! Your little ones will love to tell you all about the story, especially if you make it part of your reading routine!