Reading is one thing, but retaining what you read is another.
Just because a child is able to sound out the words in a story does not necessarily mean that he or she comprehends the meaning. Often, children experience difficulty in remembering what they read, especially if they are confused by or uninterested in the reading material (i.e. a textbook passage).
Children who are able to process and remember what they read are better equipped to study and score well in exams. Learning through stories can improve children’s long-term memory, neuroscience research shows.
Here are five smart strategies that you can use at home to help your kids remember what they read.
1. Create a mental picture of what is being read
Research shows that humans tend to remember pictures more easily than words. To improve reading comprehension, encourage your child to visualise the descriptions and words on the page.
For instance, if there is a passage about the characters playing football, ask your child to create a movie in his or her mind of a football field, the ball being passed back and forth, and other actions. That way, when recalling the passage, your child can draw from this mental movie or picture that he or she had created.
2. Retell the scene/story
Paraphrasing is a useful learning technique as it encourages your child to make sense of the information they read before saying it in his or her own words.
Here is a paraphrasing activity to boost reading comprehension: The next time your kids are reading, pick a page for them to cover. Let them take a moment to remember the paragraph or passage they just read, and then retell it to you.
If they are unable to do it, or only remember the last sentence they read, encourage them to read the passage again carefully before giving the retelling activity another go.
Tip: Some kids may find it more fun to practice retelling the story with another kid, either a sibling or a friend, as it becomes more like a game; the one who is re-telling can be the “teacher” while the one who is listening can be the “student.”
3. Borrow techniques from reading programmes for kids
Many reading programmes for kids encourage active reading techniques to improve children’s comprehension abilities. Whether it is through jotting down notes in the margins, circling vocabulary words, and underlining central ideas, or using sticky notes, the practice of “engaging” with the text allows children to remember and understand it more thoroughly, rather than just skimming through.
MindChamps Reading and Writing Programme teaches children how to actively understand and interact with words through the four areas of language: reading, writing, speaking and listening.
This, in turn, trains their analytical thinking, which not only helps them in Language Arts but in Math and Science as well. Active understanding leads to effective learning in all subjects; in order to solve problems, you need to actively understand them first.
4. Make the words come alive
If you have a little thespian in the family, make reading fun (and help the story meaning stick to their memory) by making the words come alive. This can be done through arts and crafts projects (such as making story props), embarking on an outing related to a theme in the story, singing songs about a character or subject, or acting in a play. There is little chance that your child would forget what he or she reads about after exploring it beyond the page through these exciting activities.
In the MindChamps Reading programme, words come alive in various ways. Theatrical strategies are used in some reading programmes for kids to help them actively interact with the facts they have learned. Through these enjoyable and enriching activities, children are truly able to connect with what they read while unleashing their imagination.
5. Ask questions
The next time your child is in the middle of a book, ask, “What happened before?” and “What do you think will happen next?” If your child is about to dive into the next chapter, ask what exciting thing occurred in the previous chapter. The purpose is to instil a narrative intelligence that helps children make logical sense of what is read through sequential understanding.
Reading programmes for kids often utilise this question-led reading technique to improve children’s comprehension ability. In the MindChamps Reading programme, children not only learn how to read, but they learn how to actively process the subject matter.
This is done through asking unique questions and generating innovative answers – an ability that will prove useful not only in primary school but in university as well when they work on various research projects. Reading comprehension is a foundational skill that affects other areas of learning.
In addition, here are six important questions to ask your kids to improve their comprehension abilities: