What is reading comprehension? Reading comprehension can be basically defined as a person’s ability to process text, comprehend its meaning, and integrate it into the already existing body of knowledge. Because reading often begins before or during the kindergarten years, this stage is especially crucial in building a strong foundation for developing effective reading skills. For this reason, it is important for teachers and caregivers alike to walk the extra mile in improving the reading comprehension of children in kindergarten. In this post, we discuss how to teach reading comprehension to children by looking at 10 tips for improving reading comprehension in kindergarten.
How to Improve Reading Comprehension?
- Increase Phonemic Awareness. Phonemes are units of sound that make up words in a language. For older persons, the knowledge of phonemes help them read and sound out unfamiliar words. However, children do not yet have a knowledge of phonemes, which in turn may hinder them from learning and understanding words. By increasing their phonemic awareness, children gain the knowledge that will help them recognize and learn new words. One such way of increasing phonemic awareness is by teaching kindergarteners the different sounds that letters make. For example, the letter “a” can be pronounced in different ways. Later on, you can move on to more complex lessons such as how to blend individual sounds.
- Teach Phonics. Related to phonemic awareness is phonics, which is the ability to connect letters and sounds and then use these in the construction of words. In other words, phonics involves the blending of sounds to make words. To do this, you can begin by teaching the separate phonemes, as discussed above. Then, you can practice blending sounds to make words by using examples. For instance, if you’re teaching the word “car,” you can show how this word is composed of separate phonemes. Once children get better at sounding out and blending sounds, they’ll be more able to identify words, which eventually aids in enhancing reading.
- Teach High Frequency Words. High frequency words are those which most often appear in texts. Examples of these include “it,” “he,” “she,” and “them” among many others. According to some sources, high frequency words could make up as much as half to over three quarters of words in the average kindergarten book. It’s only sensible, therefore, to concentrate on high frequency words, since doing so will help children better understand the majority of the words they encounter when reading age-appropriate materials. A good place to start when teaching high frequency words are the lists compiled by E.W. Dolch and Edward Fry.
- Play Reading Games. It’s a well-known fact that children, especially those in kindergarten age, usually have short attention spans. As a teacher, it falls upon you to make the learning process fun for children. One way to make reading strategies for children more exciting is by playing kindergarten reading games. For example, you can ask children to hunt for consonant-vowel-consonant words such as “pet,” “cat,” “dog,” and “map” among others and then return with the words that they found. It’s better if you have a lot of games to choose from, since this will give children the variety that they need.
- Repetitive Reading. Kindergarten reading skills can also be enhanced through repetitive reading. While making children reread materials may seem counterintuitive, there’s actually a good reason for this. The first time a child reads, it’s more likely that he or she will focus more on decoding words rather than finding out the meaning of the material. During subsequent readings, a child becomes more familiar with the words, which allows him or her to focus more on understanding the meaning of the text. Furthermore, this method helps a teacher to determine where a child is having difficulties and thus focus in these areas. But remember that children have short attention spans, so you will need to structure rereading in such a way that they are turned into interesting reading activities for kindergarten children.
- Ask Questions. Another way to enhance kindergarten reading comprehension is by questioning. Note that this strategy should be implemented once a child is already able to read age-appropriate materials. For example, once a child finishes reading a book, you can ask him or her about the characters in the story, the events that happen, or the setting. Moreover, you can ask the child his or her reaction, what he or she thinks, or even what he or she would do if in the same situation. Apart from helping children better understand the specific material they’re reading, questioning can also help increase children’s critical thinking when making meaning of what they read.
- Ask Children to Retell. Another good way to improve the reading comprehension of children is by asking them to retell what they read. Similar to asking questions, retelling involves the children sharing what they read. However, this is different since retelling allows a child to set his or her own pace and direction. Asking children to retell enhances reading comprehension by encouraging them to remember details. It also promotes a more attentive attitude when reading materials.
- Encourage Children to Make Connections. Reading comprehension can also be improved by encouraging children to make connections between what they read and other materials that they encounter. For instance, you can show a video related to the book before asking children to read. You can also ask children to read books that have similarities. You can even ask children to relate what they read to their own experiences. The point of the exercise is to enable children to think more about the meaning of what they read.
- Encourage Reading as Habit. Conventional wisdom tells us that practice makes perfect. Developing good reading comprehension is a continuous process that extends well beyond a person’s years in kindergarten. Even adults can improve as they age. That said, encouraging children to develop reading as a habit can have a significant positive effect in the long run. Once you spark a love for reading in children and give them access to reading materials that interest them, their reading comprehension is bound to get better.
- Use Various Strategies. Finally, as a teacher, you should be able to use different strategies to help children improve their reading comprehension. Not all kindergarteners are alike, nor do they learn at the same pace. Additionally, different kids have different interests and ways of learning. Thus, there is no single strategy to address all children’s needs. By growing and diversifying your ways and your reading comprehension activities, you’ll be able to approach each child in a way that best suits his or her needs.
Good reading comprehension is an important lifelong skill, and this is why enhancing reading skills should start at the very beginning. While teachers are in a position to build strong foundations for effective reading comprehension, the process can be challenging. Nevertheless, these tips for improving reading comprehension in kindergarten can help. But remember that learning how to improve reading comprehension of kindergarteners begins with just being there for the children. Whether a child wants you to read a book or tell you to “help with my assignment,” you need to be there to take advantage of the opportunity to foster learning.