Reading Aloud With Children – A Great Time to Practice Making Mental Pictures

Young children often think that being a successful reader means that they can read the words on the page and have a general sense of what the text means. It is understandable. Scarcely understanding the text is a big feat for beginning readers. It may earn them the title of Great Decoder, but they have not yet achieved success as a reader. Good readers spend most of their time on comprehension and need little time to figure out what the words actually are.

The ability to live the story in your mind is one of the biggest joys of reading. Visualizing the story immerses you in the details and leads to deeper comprehension. When we read aloud to our children, we have the opportunity to model this technique and help them practice it. Making mental pictures together will lead to your child to be able to make mental pictures when she reads silently.

Connecting the Text to Your Life
Using images from your own life can help make strong connections to a text. Start with a text that makes you recall a specific moment in your life. You might even want to close your eyes while your share your story to model seeing it in your mind and allow yourself to take in more of the sensory details. Connect the memory back with the text by finishing with something like “so, I know how “x” character must feel.” or “I wonder if the story will end like mine did.”

Creating a Mental Picture
To model this technique, read a passage full of rich detail. Stop and think about what you read. Close your eyes and share with your child the details of the scene as you see it in your mind. Refer back to specific words or phrases in the text to model that connection.

Practice with Your Child
After you have modeled these techniques a few times, some kids will jump right in and make connections and create scenes in their minds. Other children will need to be encouraged to try it themselves. Invite your child to close her eyes while you read. Ask her to share what she saw and to talk about what led her to that conclusion. You might need to draw out ideas by asking her some key questions about the setting or character or connections with her life.

Continue to share your mental pictures and the words or life experience that led you to create it. By listening to your process, your child will start to implement a similar method in her mind. Also, if she creates a mental picture that has little to do with the text, help her to adjust her image by asking her what words in the story made her think that way. Sometimes you might need to read on a bit to help her adjust her image. The ability to correct mental pictures as you read is another important comprehension strategy.

Practicing making mental pictures while we read aloud with our child will give her a tool that will guide her to deeper comprehension of the text, more enjoyment, and ultimately more success as a reader.