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The Magic of the Pause

Did you know there are many ways to support young children’s reading development?

Many parents believe that if their child can decode and read the words on a page, then their child is good to go. Usually this is why people often spend so much time working on phonics instruction when they are at those ages of 4-8.

But just learning how to decode and read the words isn’t good enough. Did you know that if your child misses some other foundational skills, they could end up behind?

When I taught second grade, I saw the result of this with some of my students. They would begin the year at the age 8 and be able to read entire chapter books but not be able to explain what they read. Usually, it was because these students couldn’t relate to the characters or events in the books simply because they didn’t have the background experiences.

If kids can’t relate to the experiences or lack an understanding of what the words mean, then the book is just a bunch of words to them. For example, some 8-year-olds I worked with could read books like “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling, but if I asked them to explain what happened in a simple Eric Carle book like “The Grouchy Ladybug” they would miss the point of the story.

Children need to be taught how to engage with a book. This means they need opportunities to interact, connect and engage in meaningful conversations about what is read.

You can teach this skill to young children by getting them to notice what is happening in a book. Model how you engage in a text and make meaningful connections. Talk about what you notice, and pause to question what might happen next.

This can even be done with a simple book like “Blue Hat, Green Hat” by Sandra Boynton. What you can do with this book is pause before reading the last word on a page, and see if the child has paid attention to the patterns on the book. Most likely, he or she will start saying “Oops!”

Here are 3 simple ways to pause throughout a book to build in reading comprehension with young children:

1. Pause to Connect:

Many children’s books have a main character that children can relate to. As you read to your child, pause throughout the book and ask questions about the characters. Some basic questions such as how the character is feeling can add in some background knowledge and new vocabulary. You can even talk about the character throughout the day in play!

2. Pause to Predict:

Did you know there are a lot of patterns within books? The patterns are usually related to the events or characters within a story or within a series. Often the patterns are repeating like the character does something over and over, or something happens to the events repeatedly. Stopping to talk about what you think may happen next will help model how to interact with the book.

3. Pause to Finish a Sentence:

Many children's books have predictable text patterns. Sometimes it’s the rhythm and flow of the sentences, but usually it’s the repeated words and use of rhyming. If you pause before finishing a predictable sentence, and the child is paying attention to the story, then you can have them say the missing word. For example, in Brown Bear, Brown Bear by Eric Carle, the text is structured that every other page has a new animal “looking at me”.

Never underestimate the magic of the pause.

Guest Author:

Anita Vermeer M.Ed. is an author, mom, and certified teacher with over 25 years of experience working for young children. She believes in the potential of early childhood and that children are naturally curious. Follow her at @AnitaVermeer27 or @KidsMoveandLearn for more fun engaging ideas.


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