Engage Your Child’s Learning Through Reading Strategies
One positive way to keep your child’s attention focused on learning is to help in making the process fun. Using physical motion in studying, connecting dry facts to interesting trivia, or inventing silly songs that make details easier to remember can help your child enjoy learning and even reduce the symptoms of disengagement with learning.
For example, there are many ways to help make reading exciting, even if the skill itself tends to be a struggle for some children. Keep in mind that reading at its most basic level is made up of stories and interesting information—things that all children enjoy.
1. Engage children through their imagination.
While your child reads or listens, encourage him/her to visualize the events in the story, creating a picture or movie in their mind. After a few pages, ask them to describe it back you or using another method such as drawings.
2. Show children how books are organized.
School textbooks are often structured in a way that highlights and summarizes important material. Show your child how paying attention to captions, charts, section headings, and sample study questions can organize his thinking and provide valuable facts.
3. Train children to look for the 5 W’s.
When your child reads fiction, train him/her to look for the five W’s: Who are the main characters, where and when, does the story take place, what conflicts do the characters face, and why do they act as they do. Although newspaper and magazine articles don’t always contain a narrative, information about the five W’s typically appears in the first paragraph or two.
4. Ask children to make predictions.
When reading a book with your child, stop occasionally to ask what they think might happen next. This requires your child to integrate what they have learned so far about the characters and storyline—and about the way stories are typically organized—to anticipate the rest of the plot.
For example, if they are reading a Harry Potter novel, ask what they think will happen the next time Harry and Draco Malfoy face each other in a Quidditch match. Or get their opinion on what they think might be the conclusion of the story prior to reading it. It doesn’t matter if their hunches are correct: Asking for predictions encourages students to pay very close attention to what they are reading. What’s more, it helps you gauge just how much they are comprehending.
5. Encourage note-taking.
Have your child keep a notepad or index cards nearby to jot down important information as he/she reads. Note-taking pushes a reader to make sense of the material, and the cards become terrific tools when studying for a test later on.
6. Allow them to use highlighters.
If a book belongs to your child, permit them to mark relevant details with a pencil or highlighter. Do this together the first few times—it’s an opportunity to demonstrate how to pick out important facts.
7. Have them create graphic organizers.
Does your child learn best visually? Help them to create a chart with boxes for the story’s setting, characters’ names, and major themes and events. Or show them how to make a mind map—a diagram that uses keywords, colors, and symbols to represent ideas and information.
8. Build on background knowledge.
It’s easier to understand the subject matter that you know something about. Help your child to select reading materials that reflect their interests, and encourage them to bring their own experiences to their understanding of a book.
Teach & Kids Learn (TKL) offers teachers and schools several self-paced online courses to consider in helping to provide engaging reading strategies. Please review the following options for your next professional development opportunity.