Is Your Child Reading For Meaning? 10 Questions to Ask Yourself

reading for meaning

Reading for meaning, or reading comprehension, refers to an understanding of what’s been read, and is one of the five essential elements of reading instruction.

Parents play an important role in developing their child’s comprehension skills, which takes practice and patience. To better understand whether your child is reading for meaning, you can start by asking yourself the following questions:

1. Is my child paying attention? Ask your child literal comprehension questions, which are questions that require an answer that can be found directly in the text, for example, ‘What was the rabbit’s friend called?’ This will encourage your child to pay close attention to key information in the text. Reading Eggs is carefully designed to build reading comprehension in young children (see how it works with a free trial here).

2. Can they draw conclusions based on what they have read? Ask inferential comprehension questions, which are a bit trickier and require answers that are less obvious. These questions encourage your child to draw conclusions based on what they have read, for example, ‘Why do you think the rabbit felt afraid to go into the garden?’

3. Are they asking questions? Proficient readers know when they understand what they read and when they do not. If your child is reading for meaning, they may sometimes ask questions about what certain things mean. This shows that they are thinking about what they are reading.

4. Are they able to stop and answer questions? Asking your child questions helps them focus their attention and think actively about what they are reading. Ask questions about the text while you are reading together, such as, ‘Why do you think the wolf did that?’ or ‘How do you think the little boy feels now?’

5. Can they make connections between what they’ve read and what they already know?  Observe whether your child is able to relate what they are reading to prior experiences and knowledge. They may even make connections between what they are reading currently and what they have already read in the past.

6. Can they make predictions? Stop periodically while reading to encourage your child to predict what might happen next. Readers who read for meaning are able to take what they have already read and make predictions about the story before it ends.

7. Can they visualise and describe what they’ve read with few illustrations? After reading a text, ask your child to summarise what they’ve read or illustrate the events. Practise doing this with books that include little or no illustrations.

8. Can they support their interpretations or ideas about what they’re reading by giving examples? Talk to your child about the text and ask them how they think or feel about it. Ask them to give you examples in the text to support their interpretations, for example, ‘What part of the story makes you think that?’

9. Can they describe the character’s moods and motives? Ask your child to talk about how the characters in the text might be feeling, or why they have taken specific courses of action.

10. Can they identify the main idea in the text? When you’ve finished reading, ask your child to tell you what happened in their own words. Observe whether they can determine the most important information in the text.

Reading for meaning is a big part of learning to develop a lifelong love of reading. To help your child build their comprehension skills, read our previous blog posts Building Comprehension Skills and Overcoming Comprehension Difficulties.

Visit www.readingeggs.com to see how your child can learn how to read while having fun with Reading Eggs!

10 Ways to Foster Critical Thinking Skills While Reading

teaching critical thinking

When you’re reading a book together with your child, one of the most important things to do is to help them build their understanding of the story.

The words and pictures in a book can only tell us so much. Good readers search for deeper meaning and find ways to connect stories to their own experiences and the world they live in. A way of looking for these connections is to use critical thinking skills. Critical thinking is the ability to draw on existing knowledge and experiences, as well as existing problem solving skills, to develop a deeper understanding of a story.

During reading time, there are a few things you can do to foster your child’s critical thinking skills not only to help them understand the story at hand, but to prepare them for a lifetime of literacy success:

1. Choose books with familiar experiences. For example, if your child is starting a new school, choose a book about making new friends. This will let your child draw on their personal experiences and feelings to make sense of the book.

2. Add a little conversation to every book. Pause several times during the book to talk about important character developments or events in the book. Take a few minutes after reading to continue the conversation and reflect back on earlier comments.

3. Think aloud to solve problems in the book. Let your child hear your thought processes and encourage them to express their own thoughts and opinions. To encourage your child to solve a problem in a story, say something like, “I wonder what the princess could do to break the witch’s spell?”

4. Predict what will happen later. A good reader uses their knowledge and experiences to predict what might happen in the story. During reading time, ask your child to predict what might happen next. Or when you finish reading the story, ask your child what could happen in the future.

5. Ask open-ended questions. Avoid questions that allow for “yes” or “no” answers. Instead, opt for questions that begin with one of these six words: who, what, where, when, why, how.

6. Let your child make their own decisions. Instead of giving your child answers or telling them they’re wrong, allow your child to draw their own conclusions about a story and build confidence in their thinking skills.

7. Encourage thinking outside the box. When you have finished a book, ask your child to think of alternative endings or solutions to problems. For example, “What else could the pigs have done to get rid of the big bad wolf?”

8. Relate real life experiences back to stories you’ve read. Observe situations and problems you encounter in real life and find opportunities to relate them back to the stories you’ve read with your child.

9. Read aloud as a family. Reading together with more than two people invites several different opinions and perspectives. Pause at important parts of the story and let each person share their own thoughts.

10. Role-play stories through imaginative play. After you’ve read a story, gather a few props and act out the story with your child. This gives them a fun way to think about how one event leads to another, and why characters act and react the way they do.

By fostering your child’s critical thinking skills, you’re laying the foundation for them to make clear judgements, solve problems and think creatively not only while reading and writing, but in all other aspects of their life.

Overcoming Comprehension Difficulties

child comprehension difficulties

Comprehension is the essence of reading – a skill that is not only critically important to the development of reading skills, but for lifelong learning as well.

Two aspects of comprehension

Children who experience comprehension difficulties usually struggle with one or both of the following skill subsets that are needed to develop strong comprehension skills:

  1. Difficulty recognising and decoding individual words in a text.
  2. Difficulty understanding the meaning or message that the text conveys as a whole.

The inability to decode individual words in a text is generally directly related to struggles with understanding the meaning of a text as a whole. Both skills are critical to comprehension.

Tips to improve word decoding skills

Developing word decoding skills is a lot about developing vocabulary. Some helpful tips include:

  • Make flashcards of new words – writing down any new words that your child encounters in the form of flashcards that they can flip through regularly.
  • Keep a word journal – an exercise book where your child can write down any new words and their meanings.
  • Discuss the meaning of words – when reading together, pick out particular words and explain their meaning.

Tips to improve text understanding

  • Ask questions – before, during and after reading. Questions like ‘What do you think the book is about?’ What interests you about the book?’‘Where is the story set?’ ‘Who are the main characters?’, ‘What happened when…?’ ‘What do you think will happen next?’
  • Use graphic organisers – which are written exercises that allow children to visually map out different elements of a story. There are countless graphic organiser templates available for free online. These will help your child organise their thoughts to provide a clearer picture of the different elements of a story.

Visit www.readingeggs.com to see how your child can learn to read while having fun with Reading Eggs!