The other night, the girls and I laughed and laughed as we read Kate DiCamillo’s latest book, Bink & Gollie.
I am always amazed at DiCamillo’s versatility as an author but that is a post for another day. Today’s post is all about comprehension.
Parents talk to me all the time about flashcards, workbooks and computer programs. They seem giddy at the thought of buying a product that will help their children learn to read. In truth, all of these parents have the tools they need right at hand, in their homes, resting on their tables and bookshelves. Sometimes I am amazed at the simplicity of it myself but the truth is, to teach your child to read all you need is a book. And a bit of knowledge.
In order to help build reading comprehension skills with children it is crucial that they learn to make connections in their reading. As authors such as Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmermann point out in their book Mosaic of Thought
and Stephanie Harvey and Anne Goudvis stress in their book Strategies that Work,
readers must make three types connections in order to strengthen comprehension. Text to self connections occur when a reader says things like “That character sounds just like my Aunt Jane!” or “The camp in this books reminds me so much of the one I went to last summer.” Text to text connections occur when readers note the similarities between a book they are reading now and a book they read in the past like, “I can’t believe it! The same thing happened in Ramano Quimby, Age 8!” And you see text to world connections when readers make connections between the text and things going on in the world around them like, “Wow! This character is fighting in the Revolutionary War. We just learned about that in Social Studies.”
As grown ups, we make these connections subconsciously, without realizing how much they aid us in our reading comprehension. While some children will come to make these connections on their own, many children need to be taught to use them. This teaching is simple. All that is involved is making connections out loud when you read. I have been doing this with my girls all along and last night I was rewarded for this simple act.
In Bink and Gollie, there is a section in which the smaller character is taking care of the bigger character. Katherine, my four year old, commented casually, “She is taking care, like little sister.” It only took me a moment to realize that her little brain had done something remarkable. She had made an accurate and thoughtful text to text connection. In Big Sister and Little Sister by Charlotte Zolotow,
the little sister does indeed ‘take care’ of the big sister, just like Bink.
Katherine had taken a huge comprehension step and all I had done was occasionally read and comment, “That reminds me of…” I loved this reminder that building comprehension can be fun, effective and workbook-free. Try it out and let me know what happens…