Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Early Literacy: Practicing Reading Comprehension with Your Preschooler

As parents, I think we all realize the importance of literacy. But sometimes we get so focused on making sure our kids know the ABCs and phonics that we forget about other very important aspects of early literacy.

Although knowing and writing the alphabet is essential, there is more to reading than that. There is so much to the art of reading, but I have decided to just focus on some ideas to help build reading comprehension. Comprehension skills help children to understand what they are reading. These ideas are things that you can do with very young children, and continue to practice with advanced readers.

1. Ask questions while you are reading with your children (or for older readers, ask questions while they are reading to you). You can ask questions once you’ve finished the book, or even throughout the story. Don’t limit your questions to what literally happened in the story. Ask them questions that relate the story to their own lives (How would you feel? Do you like…? What other stories have we read where this happens?).

2. Think aloud as you read to your children. Children learn a lot by watching us—but our thoughts are not something they can see. So as you are reading, say what you are thinking: “This reminds me of…This is like when we…..I wonder if…I think he must be feeling…I’m going to reread that because it didn’t make sense…Mmmm, I can almost taste the….I can imagine what it is like to…I wish I could…” These kinds of verbalized thoughts will help your child see what they should be thinking as they read.

3. Retelling stories is an important way to help children improve their comprehension skills. To retell a story, children can simply tell you the story in their own words. For older children, have them write a summary of the story. They can also act out the story using costumes and/or props. They can pretend to be the characters in the story, or act as a narrator and tell the story while acting it out:
  • Puppets: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault

You can also make props such as these for retelling:
  • Flannel Board: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you See? By Eric Carle

Another great way to retell a story is to have kids make their own book. We colored a small picture-only version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar. You could also write your own version of the story. My daughter made Elmo, Elmo What Do You See?

4. Story Sequencing helps children to remember the order of the story. Have pictures of different parts of the story, and ask your child to put them in order. Discuss the story as you go along. For children who can already read, cut up sentences from the story or small descriptions of main events in the story, and have them place them in order. Don’t overwhelm children with too many events or intricate details.

  • There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly
5. Draw a picture after reading a story. Have your child draw a picture of a scene in the story.

Reading comprehension is an important aspect of becoming a good reader. It helps children learn how to think as they are reading, and understand what they have read. It is important for your children to practice this skill throughout their reading career.

Some of these ideas were found in Classrooms That Work: They Can All Read and Write by Cunningham and Allington. If you have other ideas of how to practice story comprehension, please share them with us by leaving a comment below.

Marie is a stay at home mom of two adorable kiddos who keep her super busy! She has a dual degree in Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education and continues to use her degree everyday of her mommy career!

Marie is one of my good friends and someone I look up to very much as a mommy. She has tons of fun ideas for things to do with your kids - so keep an eye out for her future guest posts.


  1. Hello!
    You have some great ideas here and lots of nice visuals. I will enjoy following your blog posts. Check out my blog if you have a chance. I think you will find we have a lot in common.



  2. there is a company i used for my sons who sells reading software that helps hone comprehension skills worked well. check it out post back www.Soundreading.com similar stuff. good fun activities to enjoy with family


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