How to develop “reading comprehension skills” when reading picture books 


In the 2018 Survey of International Student Achievement (PISA) Japan’s rank dropped from 8th to 15th showing the decline of Japanese children’s “reading comprehension”. This is because more children are spending more time watching TV, YouTube and playing apps and games and less time interacting with others.
However, elementary schools are making efforts to increase opportunities for group discussions and presentations. Children who can listen and speak in front of others are more likely to do better at school. Also, reading comprehension is becoming a main part of more and more entrance exams in recent years.
In this article, we will introduce how parents can nurture reading comprehension skills in their children by reading picture books.

すべての教科に必要となる「読解力」 幼児のうちに絵本を用いて育てる方法とは? 

What is reading comprehension?

Reading comprehension refers to the ability to understand deeply what the person speaking or the characters in a story are trying to say or feel. This ability is cultivated by reading picture books to children to help them visualize the content of the story, and through repeated experiences of dialogue with family and friends. The ability to understand what others are saying in a story and to express one’s own feelings and thoughts in words is important even after entering society.

How to develop reading comprehension using picture books

1. Make it a habit to read picture books with your child on a regular basis

It is important for parents to choose times when both you and your child can relax, such as before taking a bath or before going to bed, to read picture books with your child. This will help your child recognize that reading picture books is fun, which is a prerequisite to develop a love for picture books.

2. Encourage comprehension when reading to your child

As your child gets older, gradually move up to picture books with longer texts. It is also a good idea to ask your child questions like “The one who likes strawberries is the rabbit, isn’t it?”, “The bear gave the dog a crayon, didn’t he?”, “First you played on the slide, then you played on the swing.” These questions will help children understand the contents of the picture book better and help him/her learn how to verbalize the images in their minds.

3. Encourage your child to tell you what is happening in the book

Next, try asking your child questions little by little. Start with questions that are easy for him/her to answer and encourage them to find the answer for themselves when they get an answer wrong. Some questions you can ask are: “Why did the old man go to the mountain?”, “What did the fairy say?”, “Why was the boy crying? How did you feel?”, “How do you feel about this boy?” Answering these questions will help your child gain confidence in verbalizing their ideas.

Communicating with your child while reading a picture book is a great way to foster reading comprehension and a love of communication. Your child can also develop his/her listening and speaking skills through increasing interaction with friends at English preschool classes.