By Chrizelle Prinsloo
Children often cannot read, or can read but have no idea what they are reading. Reading with insight and reading “between the lines” have become a skill that only a handful of children can apply. We don’t have to dig deep to find the reason for this phenomenon, but thank your “digital nannies” for keeping our children occupied.
Below is a typical example of a primary school comprehension test.
Jimmy sat on the edge of the playground. He looked at the other children playing on the swings while eating his lunch alone.
Teacher’s question 1: Where did Jimmy sit?
Learner’s answer: He sat on the edge of the playground.
Teacher’s question 2: Why do you think Jimmy sat alone?
Learner’s answer: He sat alone.
Over the last few years we have been bombarded with depressing statistics of the decreasing reading levels of school-going children and university students. This leads one to ask why we are facing this situation, despite an updated curriculum, increased effort from teachers and with parents spending hours doing homework. Unfortunately, analysing the situation will not lead to a solution, but forces us to think of what should be done.
Parents should not underestimate the value of good old-fashioned bedtime stories. However, simply reading bedtime stories is not enough. Children need to interact with stories and parents can use storytime as an opportunity to develop comprehension skills.
Before reading the story, look at the cover and ask the child what he or she thinks the story is about and which characters will be in the story.
While reading, it is important to ensure that the child follows the story, understands the words and can make predictions about what could happen next. Ask leading questions, such as “What does edge mean?” and “What do you think Jimmy felt when he ate his lunch alone?” and “What would you have done if you were in Jimmy’s shoes?”
When you turn to the next page, you can ask “What do you see in the picture?” and “What do you think will happen next?”
Reading with understanding is not only beneficial for developing reading comprehension skills, but also helps a child in other subject areas. Parents often say that their children can do Mathematics, but only struggle with word problems, without realising that reading comprehension skills form the basis of solving word problems. Content-based subjects, such as Science, also rely on extracting important facts, making connections and making inferences.
Simply put, reading with insight is the objective of primary school and will ensure success during high school and tertiary education.
“Fluit-fluit, my storie is uit!”
Chrizelle Prinsloo is the owner of Kip McGrath Education Centres, Walmer. She has a background in psychology and has taught in mainstream and special-needs schools both locally and abroad. Chrizelle is passionate about helping children gain confidence in their own abilities and about finding different ways to help them learn.
Contact her on 081 707 9822 for a FREE assessment.