Reading is an important tool for gaining knowledge. When I was a kid, my teachers provided us most of the knowledge we got. Today, my kids get most of their new knowledge by themselves, much of it by reading. In fact, I believe that getting our kids to love reading is the single most significant thing we can do for them.
Your kids will have to read a lot during their school years and even more during their life, so developing their reading skills is essential to their knowledge, development and their success.
Broadly speaking, there are two reasons for anyone to read:
- For information and knowledge
- For pleasure
There is something very unique about the two reasons. If done properly, they can contribute to each other. As parents, we can make sure that learning new things will be a pleasure and that enjoying what we read will teach us a lot.
Who is responsible?
Getting the right information in a short time is a learned skill. Unfortunately, some teachers emphasize those skills, while others expect the kids to develop with them on their own. Either way, parents have the responsibility to make sure their kids learn how to read effectively. Personally, I would not take any risks and I would make sure my kids obtained this skill, even if I had to teach them myself.
In every parenting workshop, I say these things to the parents and many of them tell me “It isn’t fair. You are a teacher, you know what you need to teach and you know how to teach it, it is your job”.
It is true, which is why I am going to write today’s post and share with you some tips on how to teach your kids reading for information. Next week, I will write about reading for pleasure.
Reading for information
Although I am referring to books below, the same tips apply to reading articles, Internet posts and assignment instructions.
Read the title
When kids read a book for information, they need to focus on the title first. To encourage kids to predetermine what the book is about, show them titles and ask them to guess what the book is about.
Read the synopsis on the back cover
The second step is to look at the back cover and see the summary of the book. Usually the back of the book gives a good indication of what the book is about. As an activity, ask kids to guess what the book is about based on the description on the back.
Read the content page
The third step is to go over the content page. Usually, this lists the titles of all the topics covered. Looking at the contact page gives an indication of the way the author has structured the book and the direction the book takes. As with titles, ask your kids to guess what they think the book is all about just by looking at the content page.
These three steps will give you an idea what the book is about. This provides the answer to an important question: Is this the right book for me? Does this book contain the information I need?
If the answer is “No”, try another book.
If the answer is “Yes”, move on to the next step.
Get the main points
Books we read to get information have a lot more information than we need. Often, a short summary of a book, with 2-3 paragraphs, is more than enough as an outcome. Authors write many examples or describe the same idea from different aspects to allow readers to relate to whatever seems relevant to them. If you get the main points, you are successful. No need to read the whole book.
Most authors follow the training technique when they write information, because this increases the chance of understanding:
- Tell them what you are going to tell them
- Tell them
- Tell them what you have told them
Therefore, the first and the last chapter of the book should contain good summaries of the book and the first and the last paragraphs of every chapter should contain the highlights of the chapter. Teach your kids to read the first and last chapter of the book to get the gist of it and, if they need more details, to read the first and last paragraphs of every chapter. This usually gives a very good idea about what the author thought was important.
Every information reading must go through an internal process of understanding, so it is always better to be an active reader and “translate” every idea into your own words.
Encourage your kids to take notes whenever they read. Tell them that “The opposite of forgetting is writing down”. If possible, it is best to highlight text and write comments inside the book itself.
Using highlighters in different colors can do the trick, but writing notes of understanding in their own words will guarantee they will remember it better.
The most important thing to remember when reading for information is why you are reading. This should be clear before even opening the book. Having a set of questions to answer before starting to read helps to find the right information. Reading purposefully attracts your attention to paragraphs that may answer those questions.
- What am I looking for?
- What is the main idea?
- How did this idea evolve?
- What are 3 examples that support this idea?
- Who are the main people who contributed to the idea?
So to help your kids get the most relevant information out of their reading, teach them to have their questions ready before they start to read. Many assignments come with very good questions, so make sure the kids read them first to guide their reading.
Come back in a few days for a post on reading for pleasure or subscribe via email or RSS.
This post is part of the series Effective Reading for Kids:
- Effective Reading for Kids (1)
- Effective Reading for Kids (2)