Though toddlers can’t read, they can begin to learn the comprehension skills they will need when they do read. Here’s one way you can help.
Improve their listening comprehension by orally quizzing them—as playfully as possible—when you read stories to them.
Ask them questions after each page or each part of a story. “Now I forget. Is Little Red Riding Hood going to her grandmother’s house or her big sister’s house?” In this case you offer two suggestions, one of which is correct, and the children can choose the correct answer.
Later, as the children grow, ask them to supply the answer. “How many little pigs were there?” “Was one of the houses made out of leaves?”
Questions about the sequencing of a story encourage children to pay attention to what comes at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. “When did Sylvester find the magic pebble? Was it at the beginning of the story or at the end?”
Questions about the setting encourage children to pay attention to the where and when of a story. “I think Cinderella lived in a tent. What do you think?”
As much as possible, make the quizzing seem like a game. Use gestures, facial animation and your “big, bad wolf” voice. Limit the number of questions you ask to the child’s age plus one so the child doesn’t tire of this activity.
Some children will enjoy asking you the questions. Go for it. This will make the activity seem more game-like since in a game, everybody gets a chance.
If you make remembering information and asking questions a normal part of telling stories, children are apt to bring this habit to the stories they read themselves.