How to Help Your Child Understand What They Read
Another night of tears, another night of reading and re-reading the same story or passage over and over. Yet your child can’t remember what they’ve read. You just don’t understand. Aren’t they paying attention? Why can’t they remember the story? Why can’t they remember the details and facts? Your child reads the words, but they don’t seem to understand WHAT they’ve read!
When I first started teaching, I’d check my students’ comprehension. I’d have students retell the story, answer different types of questions, give the main idea, describe what happened, draw pictures – all sorts of ways to check for understanding. But I had this nagging question: was I really TEACHING comprehension? And if I really wasn’t teaching my students to comprehend, then what was the missing key? How could I teach kids to really understand what they hear and read? Luckily, I searched and found that missing key! I spent hundreds of hours being trained in HOW to teach that missing link. It has made all the difference for readers struggling with understanding. What’s the missing link? Well, there’s an underlying process that each of us needs to understand what we hear and read. It’s a sensory connection in the brain, and it’s tied directly to language comprehension, language expression, and critical thinking. It’s called visualizing, or “making a picture in your mind’s eye.” But it’s more than that. It means being able to image parts into being able to “see the whole”. It’s called “concept imagery”. I always figured everyone made pictures in their minds and put them into whole images, like playing a movie in your brain. Was I ever wrong! About 30% of the population struggles with this. That’s a big group that day in and day out may:
- not understand jokes
- ask and re-ask questions that have already been answered
- feel as if information “goes in one ear and out the other”
- can’t seem to grasp the main idea or inferences from movies, TV shows, or what they’ve read
- reads and re-reads countless times but still can’t remember or understand
- have difficulty following oral directions
- seem scattered and can’t “get to the point” in conversations or retelling stories
- lose attention quickly in conversations or lectures
- have been labeled as having an attention problem, “not trying”, or “an airhead”.
Imagine dealing with that every single day! How frustrating and heart-breaking as a parent to have your child struggle so, but not really know how to help them! Well, there is good news! Concept imagery can be taught using very explicit teaching that “rewires” this sensory connection in the brain. Explained simply, struggling readers are guided through developing and verbalizing images using “structure words” and guided questioning. Beginning with pictures, to words, to sentences, to multiple sentences, to whole paragraphs, to multiple paragraphs, and then to whole pages, to tying these in with higher order thinking skills, the struggling reader begins to develop the needed concept imagery and comprehension!
If a person struggles with comprehension, it affects so many areas of their lives. This is even more so as a child moves into middle school, high school, and beyond. Remediating the root causes of comprehension difficulties can be a life changer for struggling readers! I have seen this first-hand, from younger children through high school students. Just eight weeks over a summer made all the difference for one high school student not understanding the content to understanding her courses and passing with good grades. Her dad told me it “saved her high school years”.
If you’d like more information about comprehension and concept imagery, I’d love to chat with you. Just click on the link below, and I’ll get back to you. Also, if you’d like my free guide “Picture This! Improving Reading Comprehension”, then just fill out the form below. There’s fun, hands-on activities for checking for comprehension. It also includes the explicit structure words used to help develop concept imagery, and ideas on how you can use them with your child. Remember, you are not alone on this journey to find help for your child!