Strengthening Reading Comprehension by Exercising Active Reading Strategies
Page By: Dr. Monica Bomengen
It seems to be the message that has pounded our culture for the past few years: exercise more, be more active, take better care of your body, and watch your health habits. Conversely, parents and educators have worried about the ills of sedative activities such as extensive participation in TV viewing, internet browsing, and video games. Through these repetitive messages about exercise and activity I think we have all established in our minds that exercise and activity help our bodies become stronger. Just like increasing the amount of exercise we engage in helps our bodies become stronger, increasing the amount of activity we put into reading increases the strength of reading comprehension.
Successful readers employ strategies for active reading, whereby the reader engages in activities that require thought beyond simply decoding the text. Active reading strategies increase the likelihood that the child will comprehend what he is reading. There are six strategies commonly associated with active reading:
- Determining Importance in Text
All of these strategies are modeled in the classroom by effective reading teachers. They can also be employed at home by parents of young readers. Many parents might be surprised to find that they already use one or more of these strategies when they read aloud to their children. This post will focus on utilizing the connecting strategy.
The Connecting strategy is one that parents can model for young readers at home during story time. Modeling is a powerful instructional technique. The parent can model Connecting by showing the child a book with several pictures, which will engage even readers who struggle. As the parent reads to the child, s/he should stop periodically and “think out loud” about the connections that s/he makes in his or her mind while reading the text.
Making personal connections to the reading increases comprehension by giving young children a frame of reference for what they are reading. Connecting to the text is classified by reading teachers as either text-to-self (T-S), text-to-world (T-W), or text-to-text (T-T).
The Connections strategy is commonly used throughout the reading process (before, during, and after). As the wording suggests, "text-to-self" involves students connecting what they read to their own lives, "text-to-world" is connecting their reading to other people and events, and "text-to-text" is making connections with other reading.
Text-to-self connections occur when the child identifies something in the text that engages or attracts him or her to the text by reminding the child of his or her own life. For example, a young child who is being read Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham probably can make the text-to-self connection of disliking certain foods. While reading to the child, the parent could ask questions designed to help the child connect the text to himself or herself, such as “What would you do if I gave you green eggs for breakfast?” or “What is your favorite food to eat for breakfast?”
Text-to-world connections help the child tie what is being read to experiences that the child has had outside of his home. The parent might bring up a family trip or vacation, errands to town where the child has accompanied the parent, or the school that the child attends. To return to our Dr. Seuss example, the parent might ask if the school cafeteria has ever served green food. Answering the question requires that the child activate his or her own knowledge and experiences.Text-to-text connections involve recognizing when reading a particular text causes the reader to think about another text he or she has read. For young children with little reading experience, it can be helpful to think of watching television programs or films as visual texts, to provide additional references for the little readers. The parent might reference Sesame Street or another educational TV program and ask the child, “What do you think Elmo would do if we gave him green eggs and ham?”
The Connections reading strategy is used to activate students' prior knowledge and to help them make predictions about what they are going to read. These activities are important for young readers because they increase the likelihood that the child will comprehend the words that are read. Parents who employ the Connections strategy can help their children become stronger readers.