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#1 of 11 Old 08-10-2014, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Reading and Recall

Lachlann (newly 9) reads pretty well. Decoding wise, he is probably reading at about a 6th grade level. His comprehension is good, if I'm asking him straightforward questions soon after he's read something. However, if he reads a chapter by himself and then I ask him to tell me generally what happened, he really struggles. For instance.. he started reading Goblet of Fire and got a few chapters in before I could check in with him. When I asked him what happened so far, he said, "Harry got a smaller slice of grapefruit than Dudley.." So I started asking him specific questions and he was able to answer about half the questions. When I reminded him, his face would light up and he'd say, "Oh yeah!"

What can I do to help improve his recall? I don't think it's strictly comprehension, because if we're reading together and I ask him to summarize after every page, he does fine. But he wants to read way more than I have time to sit with him, so..

Thanks!
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#2 of 11 Old 08-11-2014, 10:14 AM
 
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I don't think it's strictly comprehension, because if we're reading together and I ask him to summarize after every page, he does fine.
Teach him to do this for himself. Good readers learn to do this automatically, but you can direct teach this skill. Teach him to pause in his reading, think about what he just read, what the main points where, the names of the characters in the scene, etc.

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#3 of 11 Old 08-11-2014, 10:37 AM
 
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Teach him to do this for himself. Good readers learn to do this automatically, but you can direct teach this skill. Teach him to pause in his reading, think about what he just read, what the main points where, the names of the characters in the scene, etc.
Goblet of Fire has a lot going on and a pretty complicated plot. If you were reading that or a similar novel and someone asked you a lot of specific questions about the last few chapters you'd read, do you think you'd be able to answer them all, or do you think there might be some details you had forgotten? I'm pretty sure it would turn out that I had forgotten some details. A 9 year old is probably even less likely to remember all the details, because the book was really written for an older audience and parts of it may be confusing or uninteresting for a younger kid. I think it's normal for a kid to focus on the interesting parts and pay less attention to the other parts, and not to be concerned with making sure every plot detail is completely understood and remembered. And I think that's okay. At his age, I think making reading enjoyable should be the main goal. As he gets older and wants or needs to read for knowledge or do literary analysis, then he can focus on techniques that help him to read closely and recall the information. But I wouldn't push it at this age. You don't want to make him feel like reading is work and that he won't be doing it right unless he works harder.
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#4 of 11 Old 08-11-2014, 12:01 PM
 
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He's unable to say generally what happened. If he doesn't slow down and make sure he understands the basics of who is doing what, he'll get lost in the book. Eventually, he'll have no clue what's he reading because he didn't understand the last 5 chapters. And that's not "making reading fun."

Making it a habit it think about what you are reading while you are reading it makes the difference between info just getting lost and info actually making it into long term memory. It's not a question of focusing on the interesting parts vs remembering all the details. Its just remembering enough to follow the story.

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#5 of 11 Old 08-11-2014, 12:21 PM
 
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He's unable to say generally what happened. If he doesn't slow down and make sure he understands the basics of who is doing what, he'll get lost in the book. Eventually, he'll have no clue what's he reading because he didn't understand the last 5 chapters. And that's not "making reading fun."

Making it a habit it think about what you are reading while you are reading it makes the difference between info just getting lost and info actually making it into long term memory. It's not a question of focusing on the interesting parts vs remembering all the details. Its just remembering enough to follow the story.
None of us reading this thread really have any idea how much he's understanding. We don't know if the questions he couldn't answer were basic ones like, "Who is Dumbledore?" or nitpicky ones like, "Which team won the Quidditch World Cup?" But if he's gotten as far as the 4th book in this series without losing interest, I'm guessing he's pretty much following the story. (Being able to recap the details of the story verbally is a whole different skill, and it's something that most 9 year olds probably wouldn't do a great job of, so I'm not sure it means anything that the grapefruit detail was all he could come up with initially.) Thinking about what you're reading is definitely a great habit, but I didn't see any clear evidence in the OP that the kid in question needs remedial work in this area. If he does, I personally wouldn't address it by turning his pleasure reading into a work assignment, with periodic quizzes.
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#6 of 11 Old 08-11-2014, 12:42 PM
 
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if he reads a chapter by himself and then I ask him to tell me generally what happened, he really struggles.

I was just going by the OP.

There were 95 views with NO responses when I posted. I kinda hate it when I post a question and no ones answers, so I shared a very solid way to help a child get more out of their reading without turning it into a chore.

Pause in your reading and check and see if you are following everything.

Really not going to kill anyone's love of reading.

I'll bow out now. I have nothing else to say on the subject.
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#7 of 11 Old 08-11-2014, 01:06 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Goodness. Please don't bow out of the conversation, I really appreciate your input, Linda.

Regarding the whole Goblet of Fire thing (when did this become a 'thing'?) - first of all, he read the first three books both on his own and as a read-aloud with his siblings. He's been dying to read Goblet of Fire, but because we're doing a summer reading program with a goal of reading 10 books, I told him to leave it 'til last so he'd make sure he was able to complete the program. So this isn't something I'm making him read. Anyway. My first question was, "So what's going on? Catch me up." That's when he said, "Um, Harry got a smaller slice of grapefruit than Dudley.." He looked overwhelmed by my question, which is typical, so I reminded him that I'm looking for the big plot points (and re-explained what that meant), not little details. My follow up questions were:

"Where is Harry when the book opens?" (he answered, at his aunt's, and he got a letter from Ron about the Quidditch World Cup)
"So he gets to go to the World Cup? Do the Weasleys come to pick Harry up?" - I was trying to lead him to remember the whole blasting apart the fireplace bit, which is funny. He said 'yeah' and when I asked him how they got there, he said, "A car?"
Then I asked, "Did anything funny happen to Dudley while the Weasleys were there?" He remembered that something happened, after some prompting, but was unable to say something like, "Fred and George gave him a sweet that made his tongue grow huge."

As you can see, I'm not asking questions like, "What did Fred say while he was behind the boarded up fireplace?" or "What did Vernon chuck at Arthur's head?" I was asking about the parts I thought he would be most interested in.

Generally, when I ask questions like this, I make it fun and engaging, rather than like a quiz. We giggle and share stories that we both like. I never make him read books that he doesn't want to - everything is his choice. Linda, what you said about him getting lost in the book because he doesn't understand the last five chapters is right on the money. When I don't prompt him frequently with questions, he gets bogged down and can't give me a high level summary of a book. I'd never let him read something as long and complicated as Harry Potter without checking in frequently, but for shorter books when he reads a few chapters in a sitting, I don't want to have to be at him constantly to summarize. Say I asked him for a quick summary of My Side of the Mountain, what I'm looking for is, "A boy runs away to live in the woods. He learns how to make himself a house and get food. He gets a pet falcon and meets a few friends. Then his family comes to join him in the woods." I've explained this to him several times, and given him examples. We've read books together, chapter by chapter, with me modeling what kind of summary I'm looking for.

I guess I just don't know what else to do besides sit with him as he reads and prompt him to sum up every page or so.

Thanks for the input, guys!
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#8 of 11 Old 08-11-2014, 08:52 PM
 
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At 33, this is still a skill I struggle with. I can read pages and pages but if I don't stop and pause frequently to really absorb the information, a lot of it gets lost. I can grasp the gist of it and get through a test but I lose a lot of the essence and deeper understanding of it. It comes from me being in a hurry to get to the end and finish to see what happens/comes next or to simply check it off my list as "read and finished" (I am kind of quirky like that). I was smart enough to get through a lot of my courses like that but when things get more difficult I really have to remind and force myself to STOP, go back and reread and just sit and think instead of being heck-bent on finishing the chapter or whatever. So, I think Linda's suggestion is great, it is a skill I wish I had had the discipline to master a long long time ago.

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#9 of 11 Old 08-11-2014, 09:08 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ColwynsMommy View Post
When I don't prompt him frequently with questions, he gets bogged down and can't give me a high level summary of a book. I'd never let him read something as long and complicated as Harry Potter without checking in frequently, but for shorter books when he reads a few chapters in a sitting, I don't want to have to be at him constantly to summarize. Say I asked him for a quick summary of My Side of the Mountain, what I'm looking for is, "A boy runs away to live in the woods. He learns how to make himself a house and get food. He gets a pet falcon and meets a few friends. Then his family comes to join him in the woods." I've explained this to him several times, and given him examples. We've read books together, chapter by chapter, with me modeling what kind of summary I'm looking for.

I guess I just don't know what else to do besides sit with him as he reads and prompt him to sum up every page or so.
It sounds like your main reason for thinking he isn't remembering what he reads is that he can't give you a good verbal summary. But I think figuring out how to verbally summarize the main plot points is a separate thing from actually remembering the plot points well enough to follow the story. Not being able to give a good summary doesn't necessarily mean he doesn't remember what happened.

But let's say you're right and he's not doing a good job of recalling what he's read. You seem to be a lot more worried about that than I think you ought to be. So he reads a book and doesn't completely follow the plot and doesn't remember it well afterward. Or maybe he tries to read a complicated book like Goblet of Fire and finds it too confusing and gives up on it partway through. So what? I suspect that's very normal for a kid his age. (I have a kid about that age. I don't put nearly as much effort into checking his comprehension and recall as you do with your kid, but I have a rough idea how well he follows what he's reading. I think he does very well compared to other kids his age, but I'm betting that if he tried reading something like Goblet of Fire he'd forget a lot of plot details along the way. I wouldn't be particularly surprised or concerned if I asked him questions like the ones you asked your son and got similar answers.) You seem to be assuming that if you don't help him work on his recall he'll remain stuck at his current ability level. I think it's more likely that he'll just naturally find it easier and easier to read carefully and recall details as he gets older, just as it got easier and easier for him to walk and talk without your making any special effort to help him improve.

Being constantly prompted to summarize what he's reading and quizzed on his recall sounds kind of stressful to me. If I wanted to help my kid learn the habit of reading closely and thinking about what he read I'd try something different. Maybe I'd pick a book to read aloud to him, and every day when we started reading I'd summarize what had happened so far, and then sum up again when I stopped. As I read, maybe sometimes I'd mention something I couldn't quite remember and I'd pause to go back and find the relevant part and re-read it. Or maybe I'd see if I could get him interested in reading some short stories and discussing them with me, encouraging him to refer to specific sections in the story during the discussion. ("Do you think the author wanted you to like that character? What parts in the story make you think that?") My kid probably wouldn't actually enjoy that kind of discussion very much, but I think it would be a great way to encourage good reading habits if you had a kid who was into it. Meanwhile, I'd let him go at his pleasure reading in his own way without turning it into a job or a test.
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#10 of 11 Old 08-14-2014, 07:44 AM
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I think with a book like "Goblet of Fire" that there is so much going on that it is difficult to summarize. It is easy to pick out a detail (like the grapefruit) and get stuck on it. I also think the complexity of the book is why many people can re-read this book several times and keep getting more out of it.

I think if I was worried about this, I would try again with a different book. When he is reading something a little more straightforward, see how he summarizes. Perhaps not at each chapter --some chapters really have very little going on-- maybe do it after the first third, second third, and ending. Summarizing is a specific skill though and I think the lack of it doesn't always indicate whether or not the child is understanding what he reads.

If he still shows difficulty after using a more straightforward book, I might work on it separately. I wouldn't bug him about anything he reads for pleasure. I would instead use smaller books (esp. books below his reading level) for summarization exercises. That way, it would be a quick read with a small assignment (write or tell a summary of the book). As he got better, you could increase the difficulty of the books.

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#11 of 11 Old 08-16-2014, 10:29 AM
 
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If you like to "check in" with these big books, how about having him draw pictures of his favorite parts of the book? If he also has some of the Harry Potter legos, would he like to act it out with those? Or dress up and act out the parts himself?

I'm wondering whether verbal answers are his strong suit, and maybe you can find a less verbal outlet for helping him dig deeply in his mind. I know that music helps me remember things, because I think the words get filed away as music, not as a string of words. It's a trick I've learned to take advantage of how my brain works.

I agree with the complexity of the plot-- if he does *fine* at remembering the major plot points with simpler, more leveled books, then it could simply be the added layers. Also, the Potter books are laid out like a mystery with many red herrings meant to distract the reader. He might be dizzy just reading it--blissfully dizzy, but dizzy nonetheless. The grapefruit might be the most straightforward part of the book!

I started the Fellowship of the Ring when I was 9, but never made it through. Read the LOTR in full at 14, at 19, at 25, 30 and 34. Each time I picked up things I missed, and felt that reading it at 25 was the first time I read it "on level". Our family has read the Potter series through once and halfway through again together. Hopefully we'll have a chance to read it again.

Good luck!
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