Understanding how children learn, and their natural learning abilities, is a key to helping children with reading comprehension. Whether you are teaching children reading comprehension skills in the classroom, or working with your own child or someone else’s outside of school, it involves using many strategies to help children in understanding and relating to what they read. Every child has strengths and abilities in how he or she learns. By using strategies that engage children’s strengths, we help them become better readers.
Let’s explore eight types of intelligence, or ways of learning, as identified by Howard Gardner. In doing so, we can investigate how to improve children’s reading comprehension.
Bodily-kinesthetic: Children who are strong bodily-kinesthetic learners enjoy moving, touching, and doing. To support these learners, provide many opportunities for children to act out stories or create movements for repeated words or actions. Try acting out stories like The Three Pigs or The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything to help children make connections between actions and words.
Interpersonal: Children who are strong interpersonal learners enjoy sharing with others. To support reading comprehension, have children retell what happened in a story, using their own words. Use stories like My Crayons Talk and Harold and the Purple Crayon. Help children by asking questions about what happened in the story.
Intrapersonal: Children who are strong intrapersonal learners tend to spend time thinking and watching others. They are good at identifying emotions. To support reading comprehension, read stories like The Way I Feel and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Have children identify and describe the emotions in the book.
Linguistic: Children who are strong linguistic learners enjoy rhymes, riddles, and word play. They enjoy learning new words and their meanings. To support reading comprehension, encourage children to learn new vocabulary words. Try reading stories with rich vocabulary or silly words like There's a Wocket in my Pocket and Bein’ with You This Way.
Mathematical: Children who are strong mathematical learners enjoy putting things in order, playing with numbers, and identifying patterns. To support reading comprehension, read stories that are repetitive or have patterns the children can identify, such as The Napping House and
Twelve Ways to Get to Eleven. Engage children in identification of and discussions about the patterns in the books.
Musical: Children who are strong musical learners enjoy rhythmic sounds and music. To support reading comprehension, read stories that have a rhythm and flow to the words, or stories that relate to music or sounds around us. Author John H. Ritter calls that the “musicality of language”. Try reading stories such as Max Found Two Sticks and Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin to enjoy the sounds and images described in the stories.
Naturalist: Children who are naturalists love being in nature. They like caring for animals, plants, and the environment. To support reading comprehension, read stories that involve animals or the natural world. Examples include Red Are the Apples and Planting a Rainbow. After reading the story, help the child make connections between the plants growing in the stories, and plants growing in the environment.
Spatial: Children who are spatial learners enjoy colors and shapes, as well as picture images. They enjoy taking things apart and putting them back together. They also like to look at the “big picture.” To support reading comprehension, read books that have bright colors and pictures and encourage children to describe what they see. Try reading books such as I'm Taking a Trip on My Train and Seven Blind Mice.
Young children need many opportunities to build reading comprehension. The more variety you provide for a child when practicing comprehension skills, the more successful that child will be. All of these strategies can be used with a variety of different books. The most important thing to remember is to enjoy the process of reading and to help the children do the same.
Randi Albertsen has over 20 years of experience in early childhood education. She is the owner of Innovations in Education, LLC and works as a trainer and consultant to early childhood teachers and programs. Her greatest interest is in helping caregivers create high quality, developmentally appropriate environments for children. Visit her website at www.innovationsed.com