My child doesn't like to read, and never does it unless he absolutely has to.
It doesn't seem to keep his interest. If you ask him a question based on
something he just read, he often gives you that "deer in the headlights" look.
He has already forgotten what he just read! How can I make sure he's really
The three elements of reading comprehension are:
well teachers are prepared to teach reading.
If a child has a tiny vocabulary and keeps encountering
unfamiliar words in grade-level text, it is impossible to expect that child to
understand what he has read.
If he has not been taught to read with phonics so that his
mind "hears" the sounds the letters make, and automatically responds to written
text in the same way your mind responds to music, then the child won't be
"engaged" with the text, and will only be parroting the text that he's reading,
rather than actually processing it into his cognition and memory.
If your child has normal intelligence, and you've ruled out
a specific learning disability that needs special attention in school, then
there are lots of things that you can do as a parent to stretch those reading
It's important for parents to do this because of the third
factor - the way teachers are taught to teach reading. In most colleges of
education today, unfortunately, prospective teachers are not being taught the
best way to instill good reading comprehension skills in students. That way is
systematic, intensive, explicit phonics. The vast majority of teachers in this
nation don't even know what that system of teaching reading is. It is
completely unfamiliar to them. Instead, they are using the Whole Language
reading philosophy, which is much more complicated and much less effective. So
when those new teachers get into the classroom, they and their students are
ironically hampered by the very techniques that the teachers have been taught
Rather than blame the child when a problem like poor reading
comprehension develops, every parent should work with children at home on
vocabulary and reading and reacting to books, from an early age, to make
reading a joy, not a chore.
Because vocabulary words should be taught both directly and
indirectly, when you read to even the youngest child, make sure the text is
visible to the child in your lap or at your side. Then the child can begin
making those key sound-symbol connections.
Make sure your child sees you reading for pleasure. It's
important. Songs, poems and art are all great alternatives to reading books
that still teach comprehension skills. Ask grandparents and others to give the
child books as gifts, and to talk about what books they're reading, to
demonstrate the glories of reading.
Every chance you get, work with your child on the sounds the
letters make, sounding out words and breaking longer words into smaller pieces.
Encourage your child to keep a "word book," which may be as simple as a spiral
notebook with cool words your child has written down.
Make it a practice to talk about new words and how they're
spelled, to talk about opposites and synonyms, and to make the dictionary and
thesaurus a constant companion.
Interaction with you draws your child into reading, too:
delve into new subjects, try new things together, and supply as much background
knowledge as you can on as many subjects as you can. Ask questions as you read;
stretch your child's imagination. The broader a child's knowledge base, the
easier it is to make text relevant and stimulate thinking, which makes reading
more interesting and rewarding.
Make sure your child knows how to use a library, has good
skills with the alphabet to be able to look up words quickly in the dictionary,
and never leaves home without a "just for fun" paperback in the car or
backpack, to fill any odd moments with that priceless activity, reading.
Homework: Read the FAQs at www.NationalReadingPanel.org