Helping Your Child Read – Creating Mental Images

I’m often asked for additional ways that my friends can help their children with reading. I would like to begin by noting that reading is highly complex and multifaceted. When reading with your child please remember that reading is not just about decoding words! Although being able to decode words is highly important, it will only get your child so far. Children and students need to be able to take those words and think critically about them. As teachers we call this reading for meaning; the ultimate goal is a high degree of critical comprehension. Being able to visualize and create mental images helps children understand the author’s message, i.e., why the author wrote the text.

So how can you help? Next time you snuggle in for story time, consider reading the story without showing the pictures. Allow your child to create those mental images for themselves. Stop a few times and have your child describe to you what they “see” in their mind. Encourage your child to use all their senses when visualizing. Some sentence starters may help support your child. See the poster below from Comprehension ConnectionsI also love having students quickly sketch what they are visualizing. If you have your child stop and do this a few times throughout the story, they can then see how their thinking changes throughout the story. Once completed, re-read the story showing the pictures. Children love comparing their representations to that of the author and illustrator!

As adults and proficient readers, we are constantly creating mental images to help us understand what we’re reading. This is just one little way you can help your child do the same.

The following books lend themselves nicely to supporting this reading comprehension strategy: 

The Napping House – Audrey Wood

Sunflower House – Eve Bunting  

The Listening Walk – Paul Showers 

Imagine A Day – Sarah Thomson 

Owl Moon – Jane Yolen    


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