Reading Strategies: Helping New Readers Pull Out Meaning

What Are Reading Strategies?

Reading strategies are specific, teachable skills that readers of all ages can use. Good reading is so much more than sounding out words. Girl from India Using Reading Strategies To pull out meaning, readers must think about what is happening in the story, ask questions, and have a sort of internal conversation with the words they are reading.

Some children will know these strategies intuitively. For others, however, these skills can be taught, and all children can benefit from learning how to use these reading skills more effectively.

What Kids Need to Learn

Here are some of the most common and effective strategies for reading:

  1. Using Background Knowledge: making connections with what they already know to bring meaning and depth to what they are reading. (What should Arthur bring to school?)
  2. Visualizing: seeing the action or elements of the story in their minds. (How big was the splash when Bumbo fell in the pond?)
  3. Predicting: thinking about what might happen next, then reading to find out if they are correct. (Now what will he do?)
  4. Asking Questions: probing deeper into the text, solving problems, wondering out loud, etcetera. (Why doesn't she want any cake?)
  5. Clarifying: testing and challenging things that are confusing or unexpected. (Does that make sense?)
  6. Inferring: using clues to figure out what something means or reasons why something is happening. (Why do you think he looks so sad?)
  7. Using Pictures: getting additional information from pictures to deepen the experience of what is being read. (Oh look, what's happening over here?)
  8. Summarizing: putting the story in their own words to highlight the important parts. (What happened in our story?)

Putting It In Context

In first grade, children will learn to apply reading strategies to very basic texts. In second and third grades, books become more challenging and often include new information. To make sense of increasingly difficult reading material, reading strategies will become even more important.

Why It Is Important

Reading has no purpose if children are unable to get meaning from the words. Reading strategies give kids specific skills that help them make sense of what they read, and make it relevant and meaningful to them. Becoming skilled in these strategies now will not only make learning more enjoyable and increase their desire to read; it will also be very important later on.

Challenges Kids Might Face

  • Children who are still having trouble reading individual words will be limited in the amount of meaning they can pull from a story.
  • Some kids may be so focused on reading individual words, they don't think about the overall meaning.
  • Other children may be good at some strategies, but need help developing certain skills.

How to Help Kids Who Are Struggling

Using Reading Strategies
  1. Talk with kids about a book before, during, and after they read it. Ask questions like, Did he do the right thing? What would you do? What do you think will happen next? What was your favorite part of the story?
  2. Ask questions that connect to kids' experiences. Remember when you saw a big lizard like that one? Do you think it would be fun to fly a kite like this? Do you think snow feels like the ice cubes in your fridge?
  3. Tell kids to go on a hunt for clues to find out what the book is not telling us. Why is she crying? What is he thinking now? The book doesn't tell us, but we can figure it out from clues like pictures and other words.
  4. Try and guess what will happen next. Make it a game. First graders think it's really cool when they predict something and then it happens. When they are wrong, play up the surprise ending.
  5. Read it again... and again! The first time kids read they need to sound out words and figure out vocabulary. Kids need to read a book several times to be able to really get the meaning from it.
  6. Good readers are able to bring the story to life in their minds.

  7. Ask kids to draw what they are reading to help them more clearly visualize the story.
  8. Help kids build a good vocabulary. Use a variety of words when talking to your child. Read harder books out loud. The better a child's vocabulary, the more quickly and easily she can figure out new words when reading them.
  9. Do lots of different things with kids; give them a variety of life experiences. The more they know of the world, the easier it will be to connect with various subjects they read about.
  10. Stop and check. If something doesn't make sense, model how to back up and re-read it. Kids should develop the habit of evaluating what they are reading as they go.

Whiz Kids

Some kids just seem to be naturally good readers. These children may not seem to be using reading strategies, but they are. They probably do many or all of these strategies mentally, and it is so well integrated into their reading that it is not noticeable.

Even so, you should still spend time practicing reading strategies with advanced kids. Making them conscious of the skills they are using will give them additional tools to use when more difficult reading tasks are required of them.



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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. ”
~John Dewey