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“My child reads a lot but isn’t learning anything. Why?!”

“My child reads a lot but isn’t learning anything. Why?!”

This is a topic I cover quite often in my parenting talks: You’ve heard that reading broadens the mind; but why do some people learn new things when they read, whilst others stay the same?

Are you a parent who is exasperated by your child’s inability to string a story together despite having read half the books at the library? You are not alone.

It’s not just what you read, but HOW you read.

Reading means nothing without comprehension. It’s possible to know and recite every word, whilst transferring nothing to mind. Remember the time you had to study for exams back during the school days? If you were from my generation, you might remember being taught to spot questions and memorize keywords. Most times, we just simply “copy and paste” the text from memory and get by with a decent grade. Did we really learn anything? That’s a debate for another article, but today I want to talk about the Three Main Levels of Comprehension:

Level 1: Partial Comprehension – When the reader understands snippets or the occasional line, but not most of the text.

Children forced to read books beyond their capability or topics they have no interest in might just flip the pages to please their parents but learn nothing from it. These kids – at least the ones I encounter in my class – have developed a technique to put together enough keywords and phrases to appear like they have read the book cover to cover.

Level 2: Surface Comprehension – When the reader understands only the story, and not what the story implies.

For example, a child might read Aesop’s Fables, and be entertained by the magic beans or the talking animals, but the child might not grasp the moral lessons underlying the story. This is what I call “reading for flavor”. Parents who are unaware of the Three Main Levels of Comprehension may be contented with seeing their little ones holding a book in their hands.

Level 3: Critical Reading – When the reader understands the story, and the multiple implications of the story.

This progression is a gradual one. New readers do not, as a rule, pick up a book and jump straight to critical reading.

In my next article, I will talk about how you can choose a suitable book for your child and the steps you can take when helping your child read critically.

Written by Eugene Tay, founder of Brain & Butter and Monsters Under the Bed.

When Eugene was a young boy, he wanted to be an astronaut. When that didn't take off, he decided that he was going to be like Indiana Jones and explore the world as an archaeologist. Eventually, he figured out how he can do both. That's when he became a writer.

Co-Written by Grace Chai, mother of a newborn baby boy. 

Grace is a new mom and currently undergoing intensive On-The-Job Training for her new role. Between pumping milk, changing diapers and taking selfies with her baby, Grace manages stress by writing about her motherhood experience for ParentTown.


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