Reading Comprehension for Young Readers

Reading specialists believe that reading for comprehension is the most important goal of reading and naturally I do too – but not at first. In my combined first and second grade, there was no stress upon comprehension while the beginners were learning how to read, not even in their own reading book. A child’s first book was a basal reader of interest to the child – one that she would want to understand. At first, each beginner was with an adult or child partner. Then later on, when they were capable enough, children read only stories or articles of interest and skipped others. These beginners were learning how to read – with or without phonics – relying upon their strengths.

If children were using basal readers and concentrating on breaking-the-code in their own way, how would they acquire good comprehension? Well, simultaneously while they were learning how to read, during the afternoons when stories were read to the class various types of comprehension were explored – about characterization, the style of the author, the setting, moods and feelings, the plot, the theme, etc. Also, they were writing constantly with a big emphasis upon stories. They each were thinking about introducing their characters and developing the plot with a good conclusion. I believe that’s where much of their comprehension developed, during discussions of stories read to them and through their own  writing, perhaps before they could understand all that they’d read themselves. Some understood what they’d read while they were very busy decoding, but others did not.

One time at a conference, the presenter put up a paragraph and covered up the top half of the words which we were to decode. My friend and I were so absorbed trying to decipher the words and soon thrilled that we were able to. Then the presenter put up another paragraph and covered up the bottom half of the words. This was really difficult. I don’t remember now if we were just able to do some of it or if we accomplished the whole thing with much struggle, but it suddenly occurred to me when it was over that I had no idea what I had just read. What it was about.

That’s exactly what I think happens when these beginners had their own book, and they wanted to read so much that they strived, willingly and enthusiastically, to decode. And as their decoding became easier, they proceeded from pure decoding to the inclusion of good comprehension – indicated by the high comprehension scores in standardized tests. Perhaps when children are accomplished readers and have poor comprehension, it’s because they are forced to read material they weren’t interested in.

Read more about beginning reading and the various reading programs in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs and activities can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

Opportunities for Overcoming Egocentrism in Young Children

Losing egocentrism is such an important process to overcome – to be able to see and understand other viewpoints, both socially and intellectually. For children to realize that the whole world doesn’t see things exactly the way they do – that there are many different views and aspects to situations. It is important for young children to have many opportunities for overcoming egocentrism.

During social conflicts there are opportunities to point out the other side of a situation, trying to help a child realize there are other opinions and attitudes. If an egocentric child disagrees with another child, she cannot understand that there’s a different idea from her own. She fully believes that everyone understands things and sees things exactly the way she does.

Piaget believed that one reason children lose their egocentrism is because of disagreements with their friends. A child begins to realize there are other viewpoints and after enough exposure with concrete experiences, children begin to think abstractly. If a child has enough experiences of other viewpoints, the usual time to overcome egocentricity is about age seven. (By the way – how many adults do you know who have no idea that there are other viewpoints? Shocking, isn’t it? We must help children to overcome all this so they won’t still be egocentric as adults. Those adults cause too many problems in our lives.)

Overcoming egocentrism is important for successful achievement throughout a child’s school experience. Success in math requires a good mental image of numbers of objects in many different configurations including the various shapes, sizes, and dimensions of these objects. Building with blocks or Cuisenaire rods and manipulating numerous objects in the math center provide good experiences for overcoming egocentricity – seeing all sides of and configurations of their creations. The same observations can be made with art projects when a child is constructing with paper or boxes, or working with clay, or making mobiles. A child is looking at all sides and angles – offering the ability to see all aspects. When an egocentric child looks at one side of a structure, she is unable to imagine the shape of the other sides. So, constructions help children overcome their concentration of static situations. These experiences in turn, will allow a child to attain solid abstract math concepts.

In order for children to recognize other viewpoints and gain facility in reading and writing critically, they need experiences with appropriate questions, opportunities for debate, and brainstorming sessions. After enough exposure, hopefully they would be on the way to overcoming egocentricity – to acknowledge and understand others’ viewpoints. And when children write about their life experiences from their own perspective, it doesn’t provide opportunities to relinquish egocentrism. When writing a story, however, a child must think about his appeal to an audience and identify with his characters in the story.  Seeking other viewpoints. And without overcoming their egocentricity, children will indeed be handicapped in depth of reading comprehension along with all other academic areas and in personal relationships. But losing egocentrism isn’t something to be demanded. After much exposure to others’ thoughts and beliefs, children achieve it at different ages and stages, but they need repeated opportunities in order to overcome it.

Read more about appropriate activities in my book, Early Childhood Programs: Opportunities for Academic, Cognitive, and Personal Success. Included is a web site where programs can be downloaded for use in a classroom. Also, see 7 reviews on www.amazon.com

   Teaching Young Children © Peggy Broadbent 2011 - All Rights Reserved