How to Tell If Your Child Is Ready for Chapter Books

when is a child ready for chapter books

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Opening the door to chapter books is an exciting milestone for both you and your child. It means they are ready to make a giant leap into faraway places and expand their imagination even further, with less reliance on pictures.

There are several skills children need to acquire before transitioning to longer chapter books. Diving in before your child is ready can risk diminishing their enthusiasm for reading and lower their reading confidence.

Here are some indicators that your child is ready to start reading longer chapter books:

1. They remember what they have read

Chapter books usually require breaking up a story over several sittings, so it’s important that your child can remember what they have read a few days, or even a week later.

The day after you have read a new book with your child, ask them questions about the story, the characters, and the events. A good idea is to encourage them to tell the story – in the right order – to a younger sibling or a relative. You can also help your child role-play the story using fun props, or to draw picture of key events and arrange them into chronological order. Read tips on how to tell if your child is reading for meaning.

2. They can make predictions about stories

Part of the excitement of reading chapter books is anticipating what might happen next. The ability to make predictions about a story signifies that your child has the comprehension skills needed to fully understand what they read. To encourage your child to make predictions, stop periodically while reading to ask them what might happen next. Readers with strong comprehension skills will be able to take what they have already read and use that information to make predictions.

3. They can picture stories in their head without visual aids

Chapter books rely less on pictures and illustrations to create details about a story. Before reading chapter books with your child, see if your child can sum up or illustrate a story they’ve just read without looking at any of the pictures.

4. They know how to choose books

Reading longer stories means that your child needs to be able to stay interested long enough to reach the end. By the time your child transitions to chapter books, they would ideally have a preference, whether it be a particular genre (e.g. comedy, adventure, history) or subject matter. Let them choose which books they want to read and help them choose by looking at the cover, reading the back blurb, scanning the text (font size, paragraph length), and deciding if it’s a book they want to read.

5. They are equipped with enough vocabulary

Your child should know enough words to embark on longer chapter books. Reading a book with too many unfamiliar words can hurt their confidence and motivation. Remember to use the five finger rule before starting a new book. Your child should also be able to use context clues to determine the meaning of words they don’t know. Try these tips to build your child’s vocabulary at home.

Some other tips to consider when introducing your child to chapter books:

  • start with shorter chapters – avoid taking on too much too soon, and ease in with shorter reading sessions
  • choose books with some pictures – chapters books with pictures and illustrations will ease the transition
  • talk about the book and make predictions – between sittings, have daily conversations about the story and what you think might happen next
  • show them how to recap – pick up where you left off between sittings by showing your child how to revisit the last chapter and refresh your memory
  • don’t move away from picture books – continue reading picture books with your child and maintain reading variety

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The Awesome Benefits of Comic Books for Children

benefits comic books for kids

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For a long while comic books have gotten a pretty bad rap. They were the sneaky distraction that schoolchildren disguised inside the pages of ‘real books’. People saw them as a more simplified version of reading; something that couldn’t offer the same complexity or developmental benefits that ‘serious books’ could.

But now parents and educators are beginning to see the hidden benefits of the humble comic book (or graphic novel). Professor Carol Tilley from the Department of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois says, “A lot of the criticism of comics and comic books come from people who think that kids are just looking at the pictures and not putting them together with the words.

“Some kids, yes. But you could easily make some of the same criticisms of picture books – that kids are just looking at pictures, and not at the words.”

Here are just some of the awesome benefits of reading comic books:

1. They turn reluctant readers into ravenous readers.

One of the best and most obvious benefits of comic books is that they can be more fun and easier to read than regular books. This can be extremely appealing to young children who would otherwise have little interest in reading traditional forms of books. Many children who think they hate reading respond particularly well to comic books that are based on movies or television shows they enjoy, such as Scooby-Doo and Astro Boy.

2. They give struggling readers confidence.

Comic books don’t intimidate struggling readers with an overwhelming page of text. They usually offer short and easy-to-read sentences, alongside other visual and text cues (e.g. character sighs, door slams etc.) for context. They’re also helpful for children with learning difficulties; children with autism can learn a lot about identifying emotions through the images in a comic book. Children with dyslexia, who may find it frustrating to finish a page in a traditional book, often feel a sense of accomplishment when they complete a page in a comic book. And as many of us know, accomplishment plays a key role in building confident and fluent readers.

3. They increase your child’s inference.

Observation refers to seeing something happening. Inference refers to figuring out something based on evidence and reasoning. It’s an important component of successful comprehension and a valuable life skill for all young children to develop. Comic books can increase inference in young children by encouraging them to “read between the lines” and infer meaning from the images. Children who read comics often need to infer what is not written by the narrator, which is a complex reading strategy. Comic books also help children become familiar with sequencing and understanding succinct language.

4. They expand your child’s bank of words.

When many people think of comic books, they probably don’t take into account the repository of words used on every page, or the opportunity they offer to strengthen vocabulary skills. Comic books give children a unique opportunity to acquire new vocabulary in combination with context cues, that is, information from pictures or from other text cues to help children decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words.

5. They can be a valuable accompaniment for other learning disciplines.

Comic books that explore or touch on historical events, classic tales, wildlife, nature, positive relationships and more can provide a valuable supplement to other areas of learning. For example, if your child is learning about the ancient Egyptians, a comic book story set in ancient Egypt may use pictures to explain important period details, such as clothing, food, rituals, farming, construction, trade, commerce, and cultural and social traits. By taking in a combination of words and illustrations, many children obtain the big picture more easily and with more enthusiasm than they would from using textbooks alone.

6. There are many different comic book genres to suit all tastes.

Comic books aren’t just about superheros and villains. And they’re certainly not just for boys. Comic books and graphic novels are spread across many different genres, including comedy, drama, sci-fi and fantasy, and there is bound to be something to suit all tastes, ages and reading levels. There may even be something that you might like to get into yourself, or enjoy together with your child, snuggled up before bedtime!

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5 activities to support your child’s language development

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Parents play a significant role in encouraging their child’s language development. Most children learn basic listening, speaking, reading and writing skills from birth through to grade three.

Studies show that children who are read to and spoken with regularly during early childhood will have a wider vocabulary and stronger literacy skills overall than those who aren’t. Additionally, there are many fun and simple activities that parents can do with their child to develop and support essential speech and language skills.

1. Storytelling

Storytelling is a great family activity that encourages language development and introduces new vocabulary. Make up stories together with your child including characters, conflict and a happy ending. Sit down to look at family photographs, talking about who is in the photograph, what they were doing and where they were. Ask your child to retell stories and set aside time for regular reading. You can even narrate the day with your child as it unfolds, e.g. “Now we’re going outside to water the flowers. When we finish, we’ll prepare the table for lunch.”

2. Labelling game

Cut pieces of cardboard paper and write the words for common items found around the house. These can include things like furniture, bathroom items, articles of clothing and children’s toys. Read each word aloud and ask your child to place it on top of the correct item. Gradually you can begin writing words for adjectives to describe household items. Include new adjectives that your child may not know and help them find items that can be described using that word. Encourage them to say each word aloud and even think of some of their own adjectives.

3. Picture book spotters

Read picture books with your child and pause to look at and discuss the pictures. Repeat what you have read in the story by pointing out to what is happening in the pictures. Encourage your child to make comments by asking them what else they can spot, e.g. “Big Ted is wearing his red shirt! What else is he wearing on his feet?” “The princess is sitting in the garden. What else can we see in the garden?”

4. Word chain

Building on the words and language your child already uses is an easy way to strengthen their language skills. Cut pieces of cardboard paper and write the words for different nouns and verbs your child is familiar with. Then write the words for different adjectives and adverbs. Help your child to make a ‘word chain’ using one noun or verb and as many adjectives and adverbs as possible. For example, if the word is ‘car’, you may select words like ‘big’, ‘fast’, ‘red’, ‘shiny’ or ‘noisy’ to create a word chain. Building language can also be incorporated into everyday situations. For example, if your child says the word ‘cat’, you can say, ‘soft cat’ or ‘sleepy cat’.

5. Role-playing

Role-playing is a fun and powerful way to expand your child’s imagination and introduce related language and words. Using costumes and props (or imaginary ones!), you can role-play scenarios which involve different characters to introduce related words and stretch your child’s imaginative play skills. For example, if you pretend to be a teacher, include as many related words as possible, e.g. classroom, students, blackboard, desk, books, learning, reading etc.

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5 Everyday Activities to Boost Your Child’s Working Memory with Reading

learning memory reading

 

When you sit down to read a book, your brain is recalling and using a great deal of information to understand the text. This is because reading requires us to draw on relevant information stored in our memory in order to gain meaning.

A good working memory is important for reading and achieving success in school. Working memory refers to how we manipulate information stored in our short-term memory. Children use this all the time to learn, read, and follow everyday instructions.

Improving your child’s working memory is a powerful way to improve their reading fluency, vocabulary and comprehension. Here are five activities you can do at home to improve your child’s working memory.

1. Play category games

When words and ideas are put into categories, they become much easier to remember. Several studies have found that when category cues are applied, children are twice as likely to remember associated words than if left to recall them on their own.

You can play category games with your child after reading a book as a helpful way to recall new words and ideas. If the book features animals, ask your child to name as many animals as they can think of, including any new ones they may have learned from the book. You can look at grouping them in different ways, such as by where they live or their number of legs. If the book is about Egyptian history, ask them to list words under categories such as diet, buildings, rituals, or fashion. This type of associative learning is a great way to improve reading comprehension and vocabulary.

2. Connect feelings to information

Children remember things most effectively by processing information in as many ways as possible, especially if they have processed it emotionally. If your child is reading a book about bird migration, ask them to imagine what it would be like to fly thousands of miles to find food and warmth. Finding ways to connect what your child is trying to remember with things they are already familiar with is a powerful way to help them learn new information.

3. Talk about what you have read

Soon after you have finished reading a book, ask your child to give you a summary of the events that took place. Encourage them to draw pictures, write their summary, or simply tell you what happened in chronological order. You can also ask your child questions to reinforce key information in the book. Encourage a post-reading discussion by asking questions like, “Where did the dog find his family?”, “Why do you think the girl felt sad about leaving school?”, or “What would have happened if the day was rainy instead of sunny?”

4. Encourage your child to take notes

To enhance working memory while reading, young children can get into the habit of becoming active readers. Encourage your child to underline, highlight or jot down key notes in the margin while reading lengthy books. They might also use sticky notes on pages to write down and group together their ideas about the text. Another great strategy to help your child understand and recall what they have read is by reading the text out loud. By reading aloud together, you can take “mental notes” by pausing and placing an emphasis on key words and ideas, or discussing the meaning of a particular word or event in the text.

5. Prepare

Before your child sits down to read a book, help them prepare by priming their memory. Give your child an idea of what they can expect and what to look out for in a book by discussing the vocabulary and overall topic beforehand. By preparing your child before reading a lengthy text, you are making it easier for them to put the information into context.

Working memory is a skill that can be strengthened over time, and activities like these can be easily built into your child’s daily life. Do you have any tips for boosting your child’s working memory with reading?

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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.

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