Being able to imagine what she is reading allows a reader to better understand the words she is reading. Experience (that builds background knowledge) and a healthy imagination work together to support reading comprehension.
An article by Doug Buehl for the Wisconsin Education Association Council explains how we use our imaginations to understand what we are reading and provides strategies to help kids develop their imaginations.
According to Buehl, kids need chances to practice creating mental images based on their senses. Here are some ideas (from Buehl and TRC) for beefing up imaginations.
- Encourage kids to describe things they’ve seen or experienced. (What did you see at the zoo today? What did you do at the birthday party?) Remembering and describing objects and experiences can help a child learn to use descriptive words.
- Pause when you are reading aloud to talk about what you are imagining as you read. Next, encourage the kids to tell you “what they see in their heads” when you read a passage. (Now the child is using descriptive words she gets from the story to create a new mental picture instead of using words to describe a memory or mental picture she already has.)
|Grace acts out Anansi the Spider|
- Ask the kids to imagine themselves as an eyewitness, and to describe the story as if they were there.
- After reading a passage from a book, ask kids about their first impression of a character, an event or the setting. Ask them which words or phrases helped create that impression.
By helping kids strengthen their imaginations, we build their reading comprehension and, in turn, their motivation to read. When you understand what you are reading, reading is more fun.
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