Reading is a learned skill, and for many children, a challenging one. In order for our children to understand printed information, they must understand how to recognize the letters, how the letters work together to make sounds, and how the sounds go together to make words. We call this “decoding.” In the first few grades, our children work very hard to “decode” words. You hear them sounding out words like “d-o-g” or “l-u-n-ch-t-i-m-e.” As their decoding improves, they read faster and faster. As parents we hear the speed at which the child reads and say, “My son is a good reader,” or “My daughter struggles with reading.” But this is not the whole story.
A key piece of reading is called comprehension. Simply, a child must understand what he reads. This understanding comes as he connects the words on the printed page with his early experiences. As he gains new information through reading, he must be able to connect the new ideas to things he already knows about. Sometimes children are able to decode words, but lack understanding of what they read. You can help.
Broaden your child’s understanding of the world by supporting his fiction stories with non-fiction materials. As he reads a story about bees, find non-fiction stories with facts and photographs about bees and their habitats. Investigate together with a spirit of “Let’s find out.” Help your child relate his new knowledge to the words on the page. Broaden your child’s experiences using the Internet as he explores worlds far away; the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, or the panda cam at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Use the public library to find book pairings for topics of interest or check out a resource online called “Reading Rockets.” This link will give you tips on how to use non-fiction books to build your child’s understanding: http://www.readingrockets.org/books/nonfiction-for-kids