How to Improve in Chinese Comprehension (Part II): Read Purposefully

Instilling a habit of reading Chinese books in your child from young is fundamental to doing well in Chinese reading comprehension (阅读理解) later in school. However, not only the types and quantity of materials he/she reads matter, but also how he/she reads them and your parental role in the reading process. In this blogpost, we highlight ways to read and decode stories and comprehension passages effectively.

Parent-guided, child-directed reading makes the difference

Are you wondering, “How ‘complicated’ can reading with my child get? Isn’t it just about picking up a book and reading it from cover to cover?”

As a parent, you play twin roles in the reading process. Firstly, give your child the space and time to do child-directed reading; follow his/her lead in what interests him/her. Secondly, be his/her reading support, guide and model. Make use of the interesting elements to guide him/her to expand his/her thought process.  

Engage your child in ‘guided reading or storytelling’ (导读), and not just passive story-reciting (朗读).

How to conduct guided reading

We understand how tempting it can be to treat reading with your child as an item on your task list to tick off, especially at the end of a tiring day at work and home, as your bed is calling. However, do try to resist the temptation to flip over the cover page right away at the start of each reading session and make a beeline for the last page of the story book. Instead, aim to make each reading session a two-way dialogue discussion, an interactive sharing experience (讨论分享) and a joyful parent-child bonding opportunity.

Decoding the cover

Before opening up the book to begin reading, spend some time observing and exploring the cover page. Children’s picture books (绘本), in particular, offer plenty of rich details as conversation starters. Encourage your child to draw upon his/her own interest, imagination and life experiences to deduce what the story is about, with these suggested prompts:

  • Introduce the title, author and illustrator’s names. Ask your child what he/she thinks the story is about.
  • Get your child to pick out details that catch his/her eyes and express why they are interesting to him/her.
  • Go beyond highlighting details to elaborate on the specific meanings of different visual cues (e.g. why the author/illustrator uses certain elements, different colours, different sizes, different positions).

For a spot of fun, you can also print the cover picture, cut it up into many pieces and make it into a jigsaw puzzle for your child to do. This can help to sharpen his/her observation skill.

Unravelling the story

As you delve into the story, you can do role play and read the story together collaboratively, if your child is old enough to recognise the words.

Remember to allow for pauses along the way when your child has questions or wish to share his/her thoughts as these are great opportunities for clarification and to promote understanding. You can also take the lead in pausing to ask questions at suitable points in the story, such as:

  • The 5W+1H questions – who (/什么人), what (什么东西/什么事情), where (哪里/什么地方), when (什么时候), why (为什么) and how (怎样).
  • “How do you know that?” (你怎么知道?)/”Why do you think so?” (为什么你这么认为?). This is possibly the most important question to ask your child as it trains his/her analytical, deductive and inference skills. It also enables you to understand his/her thought process.
  • Ask your child what the moral of the story is, whether the subject is doing the right thing, what lesson he/she can learn from the story, or what he/she would do if he/she was the subject of the story.

Pro Tip

Scaffold your questions progressively, from easy to hard, and be sensitive to the age of the children. Avoid plunging right into deep questions from the start. Always be encouraging, and don’t be too quick to correct a wrong answer. Aim to create a positive reading and learning experience every time.

Such guided reading is beneficial not only for reading comprehension, but also for the latest PSLE composition writing and oral format, as well as critical thinking in general, in the long run.

How to read comprehension passages

Reading in context

Unlike the English language, Chinese words (词语) are usually formed by and derive greater meaning from combining two or more characters (字).

At KidStartNow, we teach our students to read word by word (词语), not character by character (字). This is to help them understand the context of each sentence in the paragraph and the meaning of each paragraph. You can practise the same technique when you are reading with your child at home.

Example:

Instead of reading like this:

        亲                                                  

read like this:

今天    母亲姐姐    喜爱  鲜花    妈妈  买了  一束  红色  玫瑰  妈妈  感到  很高兴

Another plus point about reading word-by-word is this – even when he/she sees a word or character in the middle of a sentence that he/she does not know, he/she can skip it and move on to other parts of the sentence or passage to try to understand the larger context. With contextual understanding, it will help him/her make an educated guess of the meaning of the word that he/she does not know how to read.

Read like it’s a team sport

Note: Student names blanked out

What about students who get turned off by having to read long paragraphs of text during comprehension exercises? During KidStartNow’s lessons, our teachers break the class into two or more groups and pit them against one another to read the passage or paragraphs in turn.

When one group is reading, the others listen attentively to check if the group is reading correctly. Teachers record the teams’ scores using a quiz-based teaching app. This competition format motivates our students to pay attention in class and try to do better in comprehension.

Coming up next

We have covered tips on what to read and how to read story books and passages to aid comprehension. If you’ve found this post useful, please share it with your friends.

Look out for our next blog post where we will share tips on how to read comprehension questions as the next important key to answering these questions effectively.

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Let your child experience how our teachers coach our P1-P4 students in a fun and exciting setting. Fill up the contact form below or call 6481-1932 / 9820-7272 to sign up for a trial class today!

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