Friday, June 10, 2011

10 Principles for Assisting Reading 2.Set the Scene

Reading involves more than just calling the words. Being able to decode the printed word is important and progress in reading cannot take place without a firm grounding in the look and sound of words. However, words do not exist for their own sake. They always have a purpose and a context.

People write words because they have a purpose and that purpose is communicated through language. Words are embedded within or language and reflect the meanings conveyed by the language and the situation in which the language occurs. Written words are symbols for a range of language experience, for example, the word happiness can mean different things to different people. Thus, the books that we read are placed within a social and language context. A rich reading experience requires rich talk and the sharing of related life experiences.

Before reading begins it is important to talk about the pictures in the book and relate those pictures to life events (of both the parent and child). Talk before reading is just as important as the reading itself. Often this can be a very rewarding experience for children because it gives parents and children the opportunity to spend some quality time together. When relationship building experiences are connected with reading it builds a positive attitude. When this is accompanied with rich talk and the sharing of experiences it builds comprehension and depth of word knowledge.

It is important to provide choice of books that include the things that the child is interested in.  This can be extended to questions designed to encourage the child to choose different experiences to match events  within a story. Questions such as: "Have you ever been in a place like that?" and "What did that feel like?" etc can develop the sense that the reader is actively engaged in the reading process by  constructing meaning. In fact, there is nothing more engaging that to use your own life experiences to understand print. This process builds competence and self-reliance.

Prediction also builds reading competence and self-reliance. For example, while browsing through a picture book and discussing the illustrations the reader could be asked to predict what might come next in the story. After a prediction is make the reader can be directed to turn the page to verify their prediction. "Is this what you expected?" "How is it the same?" "How is it different?" "What do you think might happen next?" This verification process involves either confirming the prediction or correcting it and modifying expectations of what is to come next in the story. This is not just a guessing game but a very important reading comprehension skill. What it does is this, it creates a learning goal and encourages the child to monitor their own meaning making. This is one of the most important skills that will lead to reading autonomy.

Thus, setting the scene involves lots of talk, sharing life experiences, making choices, and developing predictive comprehension skills.

In the third blog in this series we will be discussing book language.

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