Reading with your child is the single most important activity for developing the knowledge required for literacy success. The act of reading involves making sense of words, by using what you already know. There are many strategies you can use either before, during, or after reading, to connect with the text at a deeper level. In turn, these strategies improve overall comprehension.
In today’s blog, we will talk about a BEFORE reading strategy called “Think-aloud” AKA “eavesdropping on someone’s thinking”. It is an evidence-based strategy to use with your child, as you read with them, no matter their reading level.
What is the “Think-aloud” method?
In short, when you think-aloud, you verbalize your thoughts. Below is a step-by-step walk-through of how you’d implement this strategy.
Step by step:
*Take a picture walk (flip through the pages) to look at illustrations and make comments aloud about what you notice, ask questions about pictures, title of the book, and make predictions
*Think aloud to yourself → share things that don’t make sense, questions, feelings and connections. For example, “I have never seen this word before, I wonder what it means”
*Share your thoughts → as you read or see confusing pictures or text, verbalize fix-up strategies “Mmm the title makes me think about….” → then go back and re-read the title for clarification.
*Verbalize inferences → based on what you see in the pictures and words, express aloud your thinking process “I see a picture of a father here… I think this book is about family”.
*Link up background knowledge → “My father’s name is Mark, maybe his name starts with a M too!”
As a parent or caretaker, it is important to select age-appropriate text for your child. For instance, preview the text to look for unfamiliar vocabulary or confusing parts in the story. Additionally, make sure you make comments about unknown concepts or vocabulary before reading. You can briefly introduce the story after the think-aloud session, keeping in mind the content of the text and the knowledge and experience of your child. Leave some questions to be answered through reading, as it builds curiosity.
What are the Benefits:
*The expert reader (your name) shows the emerging reader (your child’s name) how to construct meaning from pictures/text
*Helps (your child’s name) learn to monitor his/her thinking before reading
*Teaches (your child’s name) to use clues (like pictures or words) to think ahead → make predictions, inferences, activate prior knowledge, connect with the book
*Teaches (your child’s name) mental flexibility as some predictions might be wrong → children learn to adjust their understanding as they continue reading
According to a study by Baumann et al., using “think alouds” supports self-monitoring reading comprehension through verbal expression. Children learn to self-monitor using this strategy, and will adapt skills such as self-questioning, predicting and verifying, retelling, and rereading the text they read. By performing these acts, they are much more likely to understand and retain information from texts that they read. This study found that it helped the students acquire many different strategies to enhance the quality of their comprehension, and overall successful readers.
The best part is that not only does this strategy help him/her become a successful reader, but it is also likely to bring so much bonding-time and joy. When there is fun, there is so much learning.
Happy reading with your little ones!
–Andrea Scola, M.S., CCC-SLP, Exceptional Speech Therapy Blog Writer
Baumann, J. F., Seifert-Kessell, N., & Jones, L. A. (1992). Effect of Think-Aloud Instruction on Elementary Students’ Comprehension Monitoring Abilities. Journal of Literacy Research, 24(2), 143-172.