Teach Reading With the “Does it Make Sense?” Prompt

Does it make sense?

Reading has to make sense to your child. When choosing books to use as you begin to teach reading, make sure there are complete sentences – one simple sentence per page.  And that there is a very simple story line. This helps make the reading meaningful.
There isn’t much meaning in a bunch of letters and sounds so if you’re teaching your child to read only through phonics, that is, by sounding out the letters, the reading will not be meaningful. And you’ll be severely limiting your child’s reading tool box.

Mother and Daughter Reading Together --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Phonics is just one of the tools, but the “mega-power tool” is the meaning strategy. Reading for meaning is the most powerful reading strategy that we use. When your child is attempting to read a sentence and comes to a word she doesn’t know, the most powerful thing you can ask is: What word would make sense here?  You can also add: Look at the picture.
If your child says a word that doesn’t fit, you can say: You said________. That doesn’t make sense. You could add: What would make sense? Look at the picture.  Or, think about the story.
With all of these prompts, you’re appealing to meaning. You’re teaching your child to think for herself. You’re not asking your child to “sound it out”. When a child tries to only say the sounds, meaning is lost.
So, how do you teach your child to use this strategy while reading a book? It’s really quite simple and flows naturally.

The Pictures

One of the most obvious ways to teach the meaning strategy is through the use of pictures.
To demonstrate, I’ll be using one of the books from the Super Hammy – My First Reading Series which I just happen to have written.

Super Hammy's Hallowe'en cover -sshot

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Show Your Child How Books Work…

How a book “works” may be obvious to you, but don’t assume your child knows! 

There are some important features about books or print (words) on a page that you should  point out to your child as you read a book together. Teachers call these features “concepts about print”.

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Focus on one thing at a time. Do it casually, once or twice while reading a book. Do one thing one day, another one, the next day. We want to make reading fun and enjoyable for your child.
The following items might seem obvious to you, but don’t assume they are for your child.

Show. Point. Demonstrate.

The first 4 items can be introduced when your child is a toddler.

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What to do before, during and after reading with your child…

Once your child is at the pre-school or kindergarten stage, you can do a bit more while reading a book together.

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1. What to do before reading a picture book

Read the title. Look at the cover. Talk about what’s on the cover. Ask your child to predict what the story might be about by looking at the picture on the cover. This can take just a few seconds.
Take a picture walk through the book quickly and simply. Don’t read it yet. Just look at what’s happening in the pictures. You can ask your child: “What’s happening here?” You can also name objects in the pictures. “Oh, what a lovely, pink cupcake!” Or, “She’s wearing a crown!”

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2. What to do during reading a picture book

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