I want to stress that neither educational ideology is inherently better than the other; however, for families who are hoping to help their children excel in American schools, these differing viewpoints can be confusing. (See this post for ideas about how to help families become more involved in their children's education.) When families attend parent-teacher conferences, they may hear, for example, that their child repeats back what he's read in a story, instead of analyzing it. It can be difficult for parents to truly understand what their children are being asked to do, as the school systems they are familiar with may have had very different expectations. Oftentimes, parents believe that if their child is able to read aloud with correct pronunciation, the child is doing everything a reader should do.
READING IS THINKING
To excel in US schools, readers must do more than recite the words accurately and fluently. They must think deeply and meaningfully about the text, and be able to articulate that thinking. Reading is the active process of making meaning of the text. This can be a confusing thing to try and talk about, for students (we spend years working on comprehension!) and parents alike. To help families understand what we mean when we say that reading is thinking, provide them with questions to ask their children when they read together at home (see below). Most families are more than willing to read with their children and appreciate the suggestions for encouraging deeper comprehension.
The prompts below correlate with the seven comprehension strategies that support students in becoming proficient readers. Parents can ask these questions about books they read in English or their native language, about books the child reads to the parent or the parent reads to the child, about movies or plays or stories they tell each other. You can download a printable copy to give parents here.
How does this book remind you of your life? How does it remind you of another story we know? How does this book remind you of something you've noticed about the world?
What are you wondering about when you read this part? What questions do you have? What are you still wondering after finishing this book?
In just three sentences, tell me what happened in the beginning, middle, and end of this book. What was the problem in this book? How did the characters solve this problem? What was the main idea? Who was the main character?
Did that part make sense to you? Have you seen that word before? What do you think that means? How did you know you were confused? How did you figure it out?
How did your ideas change as you read this book? Did your predictions come true, or were you surprised? Does this story make you think about anything in your own life differently? Does it make you see the world differently?