Text comprehension with children

Both children and grown-ups make similar mistakes in text comprehension. As a grown-up it is easier to help children since the texts they read appear simple and meaningful for most of us.

Here are some common questions you can ask the child for improving reading comprehension with a child.

  1. Search for repeating words within the text. Which word or group of words is special for the text?
  2. Which are the specific markers of each paragraph? This would be rare words that do not appear elsewhere in the text and convey ideas specific for the paragraph.
  3. What is the goal of the author? What is he trying to show, innovate or summarize?
  4. What is your own perspective on the material you just read?

To test the level of understanding of the text ask the child to perform the following tasks:

  1. In each paragraph select three groups of three words each that summarize the paragraph. Read only these words. Are they a general idea or specific to the interesting paragraph? Do they really summarize the paragraph? What was not summarized by these words? Could we choose better words?
  2. What is the text about? Please explain what you just read in your own words. Now read again. What did you miss?
  3. Why is this text interesting? Where can you use it in your life as a grown up? Where do other people use similar ideas?
  4. How could you improve the text? Do you have any question or objection not covered by the author? Was the text boring, and if so what would make it interesting?
  5. The text has several arguments and examples. Could you come up with better arguments? What assumptions were used?

And the most helpful exercise:

  1. Read once and write down everything you understand.
  2. Read again, comparing with what you just wrote. What did you miss?
  3. Now again write down all new information below what you have written.
  4. Repeat the task until the impartial observer cannot detect anything missing.

Finally, check out the personal biases.

  1. Did you read all parts of the text with equal attention? Was your attention different at the beginning and the end of the document?
  2. Did you skip names and numbers? Why? Can you find a way to remember them?
  3. What caught your eye: the general idea or the specific examples? Did you notice both?

The reading practice is really simple. With a child you will get a lot of resentment. Prepare to hear “everything was boring”, “I understood nothing”, “leave me alone”.  Try to get at least something useful, and celebrate the success. With time the situation will get better, and eventually the child will read better than you.

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2 Replies to “Text comprehension with children”

  1. What about gamifying this? Just knowing your child will say “everything is boring” is a good indicator that you need to grab their attention more before they can learn. Depending on how old the child is, you can possibly pull up other reading material and compete with them.

    1. Yes, that’s a good idea. I think I mention it in our Udemy course. There are several forms of gamification with different efficiency. Generating a good game mechanics is not always easy. I hope to write about it in the future.

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