Reading Comprehension Strategies for Non-Reading Toddlers

By: Anjali Joshi

Coming from the world of teaching has its benefits. While I may have enough scarring teacher tales to write a book, I am also armed with some basic knowledge of how people learn. For me, the transition from teacher to mother was a very natural one. My classroom of 25 little munchkins had simply shrunk to a classroom of one little guy.

There are a few comprehension strategies used in the classroom that can easily be applied at home with your children -- and it’s never too early to start!

1. Read the Illustrations
Before beginning a new book, flip through it page by page looking only at the illustrations. This is an excellent opportunity to engage in conversation with your toddler. What animal is that? What do you think happens here? Does he look happy or sad? Simple questions such as these encourage your child to make inferences and predictions, both of which aid reading comprehension. You can revisit these predictions once you’ve read the book.

2. Using ‘Cloze’-type Strategies
Many toddler favorites are books that are repetitive. These texts are perfect for encouraging young readers to participate in the reading activity. ‘Cloze’-type strategies give children a chance to fill-in-the-blank. For example, in The Very Hungry Caterpillar, encourage them to help you finish each sentence. They will love to shout out “He was STILL hungry!” In Hanuman and the Orange Sun, they will love to shout CHOMP! when Hanuman dada eats up the orange sun. This type of activity allows readers to actively engage in the reading process even though they aren’t quite able to read the words just yet.

3. Retell
The learning doesn’t stop once you close the book -- now is the time to retell the story in your own words. Ask your child questions about the characters, the setting, and the plot. What was the little girl's name? Do you remember what happened next? These type of questions help your child understand the text.

4. Making Text-to-Text Connections
There are three types of connections we discuss in the classroom. More meaningful connections are deeper ones that look beyond superficial similarities. This an opportunity to think about how two different stories relate to one another. For example, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? would facilitate a discussion about how both books are about how animals use their senses to locate one another.

5. Text-to-Self Connections
These connections is when the reader links the story to themselves. Children love talking about themselves. For example, when we read Do Lions Brush Their Teeth? we discussed our own bedtime routine. Reading Ganesh and the Little Mouse can spark a discussion on what it means to be a good friend. These conversations help children extend their reading beyond the pages of the book.

6. Text-to-World Connections
The next time you go to the zoo, talk about the animals in Dear Zoo or Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Relating the texts on a page to real-life scenarios help children give deeper meaning to their reading materials. Furthermore, the next time you read a book about the zoo, they will surely recount their last trip to the zoo and tell you all about it! It’s this cyclic nature of young minds that strengthens their neural connections and helps them understand the world.

Having spent years in the classroom seeing boys struggle with reading, I was determined to make sure I would be doing everything in my power to expose my son to the wonderful world of reading. Two years in, I can say I am pleased with how things are going. Reading is his favorite activity and the public library is his favorite place to be. As an avid reader myself, I hope this never changes.

Bharat Babies produces developmentally appropriate books that promote early literacy and share India's rich heritage with our youngest readers. Learn more about our story and mission here