Children are always trying to make sense of the world around them. From a very early age, they make connections to aid their understanding of how the world works. For example, one day a baby might learn how to open a snack box in order to grab snacks for himself. The next time he sees a snack box, he will remember that he was able to open it to get himself snacks and most likely will try to open it again. He is making the connection between his original experience with the snack box and any future encounters with such boxes.
The same process is useful in reading comprehension. Students who are able to make connections between what they’re reading and their own experiences are better able to comprehend the text they are reading. They are linking the words on the page to a larger picture that provides a deeper understanding of the text. The earliest readers all the way up to the adults can all make connections while reading. You can help your child make such connections by modeling how to make connections and talking with your child about his or her own connections.
One of the types of connections students make is the text-to-self connection. This is often the easiest to make because children are usually so in touch with their own experiences and emotions. It’s very easy for students to think about how a book relates to their own lives. To practice, start by reading a picture book with your child. Once you’ve finished reading, ask your child questions such as:
• Does anything that happened in the story remind of something that’s happened to you in your life?
• Do any of these characters remind you of people you know (including yourself)?
• Have you ever had similar feelings that one or more of the characters in this story had?
No matter what type of book you read with your child, he should be able to find some personal connection to make with it. And with each connection he makes, he deepens his understanding of the story, characters, and plot.
Another type of connection students make is the text-to-text connection. In order to make this connection, students have to remember prior stories they’ve read to see how they might relate. To practice this connection, read a story to your child and ask her the following questions:
• Does the plot of this book remind you of any other books we’ve read?
• Do any of these characters remind you of characters you’ve encountered in other stories?
• Have you read another story with a similar setting?
I know some teachers expand this type of connection to move beyond just another book. Some allow students to connect to a TV show, movie, play, etc. As long as it helps deepen their understanding of the original text, it makes sense for students to access anything they have in their arsenal.
The final type of connection is text-to-world. With this, students must connect what they’re reading to something that is presently happening in the world or world history or events. As you can imagine, this connection is the most sophisticated to make and therefore is often introduced at an older age. After reading a story with your child, focus on these questions:
• Does this remind you of anything that is happening in the world right now?
• Do the problems faced in this story exist in our world today?
• Do you see similarities between what happened in this book and something that has happened in our world’s history?
You’ll find that at first your child might struggle to make these text-to-world connections. Modeling some of the connections first yourself should help ease them into this way of thinking.
Children are always looking for ways to make meaningful connections. With a little guidance from an adult, they’ll soon be able to form insightful connections when reading as well.