Anticipating meaning in reading
         Children can only make sense of reading when they understand the
vocabulary, characters, and situations about which they read.

         The main character in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very
Bad Day threatens to move to Australia. This will be meaningless to children if
they do not have an understanding of what and where Australia is.

         A child who has read and understood Cinderella will have a greater
appreciation for Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, as the theme is similar, though the
setting is Africa.

         When you are introducing a new story or non-fiction book to your children,
it is wise to anticipate vocabulary or situations that are unfamiliar to them.
Handling this before you read to them will heighten the enjoyment of reading
together. Introduce these in a discussion before the actual reading, so that the
reading of the book can go undisturbed.

         It is particularly useful in non-fiction to identify what your child already
knows about the topic. This is a good way to prepare for reading. It can also
help to determine the level of the book that you are going to choose. If she is
interested in spiders, for example, she may already know that they spin webs,
have eight legs, and come in several different varieties. 

         This flip side of the coin gets your child’s mind ready to learn. Continuing
with the spider example, she may want to find out what they eat, how many
eggs they lay, and how long they live. Using this to guide your search for
information will aid your choice of reading material.

         I usually prefer reading a story straight through the first time I read it to an
entire group of children. There are times, however, when it is hard to resist the
temptation to ask, “What do you think will happen next?” or “What could
happen next?”  (It’s also a little easier to do this with one child that with a
group.) 
 
         A child’s being able to talk about the possibilities of what will happen in a
story indicates his having listened well to what you have read so far. And it is a
fine way to take a peek at what is happening in the child’s thought processes.

         This column has been incorporated into Teach Your Children Well: A Teacher’s Advice for Parents.

 
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