Reading at an Early Age


A parent can develop critical reading skills in his child at a very early age.  Here’s a way to start:  use the five W’s when you read with your child.  Those questions are Who, What, When, Where, and Why about the story or lesson.  Don’t ever fall into the trap of simply asking what happened, particularly if you don’t know the story.  And there’s a fine line between allowing the child to be creative and imaginative while still understanding the reality of the author’s purpose.  That’s where only the parent who knows his child can make the call.

As the adult reader, you must first determine what the author’s purpose in this work is.  For elementary reading, this falls into only a few categories.  Entertainment, or to make us laugh and enjoy, is common.  Authors also write to teach a lesson, develop a moral (the distinction between right and wrong), and to inform (exposition).  When your child answers those five W’s, they should “fit” the author’s purpose within reason.  It’s important not to allow the child to stray too far from this in his answers.  If a child is allowed to assume that any answer he gives is correct, even when it is not, an incorrect pattern of detecting and putting clues together will develop.  Children stick very hard and fast to what they learn first, so make every effort to get the reading pattern established from the beginning: author’s purpose, explained by answering the five W’s.

I know what you’re thinking.  If the author is only writing to entertain, how can my young reader answer those five questions?

1. Is the character (Who?) funny in a particular way, such as mannerisms, slips of the tongue, or mistaken concepts?  Readers should laugh at the character because they see themselves.

2. What is the entertaining event in this story?  It could be a plan that goes wrong, or falling into the swimming pool fully clothed.

3. Is the time set in the story (When?) appropriate to the character and the event?  Does the time element enhance the story?

4. It doesn’t make sense to read about the hustle and bustle of noise if the story takes place in a rural area (Where).

5. Why does the character make the choices we read about?  How do those decisions affect the outcome?

If the answer to any of these is that it doesn’t really matter to the story, you have a weak piece of literature, or have made an incorrect conclusion.