What does research say about the the benefits of making personal connections in reading comprehension?
Research on reading comprehension indicates that an effective strategy for readers to understand text is to make connections to their personal experiences and background knowledge (Fountas & Pinnell, 2001; Keene & Zimmermann, 1997).
Making connections while reading helps the reader monitor their own thinking, keeps them actively engaged while reading, and leads to an overall better understanding of the text.
Here are three types of connections to help with reading comprehension:
1) Text to Self: The child connects what they read to something in their own life.
2) Text to Text: The child connects what they read to something they have read previously.
3) Text to World: The child connects what they read to something they knows about the world.
How Do We Teach Our Children to Make These Kinds of Connections?
You can practice making connections with your child or student.
Pick a story you have both read or that you have read to them and ask them to answer the following questions:
1. What from my own life does this story remind me of?
2. Which characters in this story can I relate to and why?
3. How did I feel when I read this?
When Should Readers Ask Themselves Questions to Improve Their Comprehension of a Text?
Readers can ask themselves questions at any point, such as after a sentence, a paragraph, a page, a chapter, or the whole book. If your child/student has trouble answering the questions, answer them yourself first, showing your child how to do it. Then encourage your child to answer the questions. It may take several examples and a lot of practice for your child to answer these questions on their own.
If your child has trouble answering the questions, stay calm and guide them by giving them suggestions on how they might be able to relate the text to their own life. Use visuals or demonstrations to support the connection if needed.
Praise your child or student for effort and interact with them about the connections they share.
Here I will illustrate text-to self-connections with the story Goldilocks and the Three Bears to give you a concrete example.
1) What from my own life does this story remind me of?
Goldilocks walks into the three bears’ house without being invited in. This reminds me of my friend Cindy who always walked into my house without knocking when I was a child.
2) Which characters in this story can I relate to and why?
I can relate to Goldilocks because she has blonde hair like I do. Goldilocks also wants to be comfortable. She tries different beds until she finds the one that is just right.
I can relate to that because I have a hard time sleeping unless I am in a very comfortable bed. I cannot sleep on hard surfaces or in cramped spaces.
3) How did I feel when I read this?
I felt angry that Goldilocks just walked into the bears’ house without being invited in. I also felt embarrassed for Goldilocks when the bears found out that she ate their porridge, broke one of their chairs, and took a nap in one of their beds.
Try It Yourself Now
Pick a book you and your child have read and do a practice session with your child. When teaching text-to-text or text-to-world connections, you can teach your child or students using the same strategy as above; however, the questions will be different.
Here are some examples of text-to-text and text-to-world connection questions:
Did something I just read remind me of something from another book I read?
If so, what?
What about this book is different from the last book I read?
Have I read something similar to this before? How was it similar?
Is what I just read similar to anything in the real world?
How is what I just read different from things in the real world?
Does what I just read remind me of anything in the real world?
Again if helpful, use visuals and demonstrations to support this process.
Teach Your Child or Students How to Ask These Questions to Themselves So They Can Learn to Indpendently Make Connections
Once your child(ren) can make these connections on their own, encourage them to ask these questions to themselves, either out loud or in their minds, whenever they are reading.
Students will have to monitor their understanding of the text in order to answer the questions. They can even write down or draw the answers if that is helpful to them.
Your child can use one, two, or all three of the strategies (text-to-text, text-to-self, text-to-world) in this article, to help with their comprehension.
Keep Your Cool
Remember to always stay calm when working with a child or student, even if you think they should be getting something that they are not getting. If you get frustrated with them, they may start to feel anxious, angry, inferior, stupid, etc. which will lead to a less productive learning session. Keep practice sessions short (2 to 10 minutes for children who get easily frustrated and 10 to 15 minutes for children who can work for longer periods without frustration), unless the child is eager to keep going. You can also break longer sessions into small chunks with breaks in between. Visual timers can be helpful as well to keep children on task until a break.
For suggestions on ways to encourage children to complete tasks or assignments they do not want to do, check out Three Ways to Use Timers to Encourage Homework and Chore Completion and How to Use Schedules to Improve Children’s Behavior.
What if the Strategies Don’t Work?
If your child is significantly struggling with reading comprehension or acquiring other academic skills, despite consistent practice and guidance, talk to your child’s school and/or doctor. They should be able to refer you to the appropriate professionals to determine what might be interfering with your child’s progress and what additional strategies might help.
In addition to the methods discussed in this article, there are several other helpful reading comprehension strategies.
- Reading Comprehension Strategies: Visualizing and Verbalizing
- How to Use Graphic Organizers to Improve Reading Comprehension, Writing, Listening, Note Taking, and Study Skills
- 3 Research-Based Reading Comprehension Strategies Parent Can Try at Home: Chunking, Monitoring, and Listening
Recommended Games for Reading Comprehension
Recommended Books for Reading Comprehension
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Rachel Wise is a certified school psychologist and licensed behavior specialist with a Master’s Degree in Education. She is also the head author and CEO at educationandbehavior.com, a site for parents, caregivers, educators, counselors, and therapists to find effective, research-based strategies that work for children. Rachel has been working with individuals with academic and behavioral needs for over 20 years and has a passion for making a positive difference in the lives of children and the adults who support them. For Rachel’s top behavioral strategies all in one place, check out her book, Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children, a Guide for Parents and Teachers. If you want Rachel to write for your business, offer behavioral or academic consultation, or speak at your facility about research-based strategies that support children, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.