Emergent and beginning readers need a lot of support during reading to be successful. Your primary goal when working with your child is to model the behaviors of good readers. Therefore, before reading a text, you preview it to get the brain warmed up. Our youngest readers really benefit from the introduction of concepts and vocabulary terms because they do not have a lot of word attack strategies to read accurately on their own.
You may want to read by post, How to Cue a Beginning Reader?, for more information about meaning, structure and visual cues. This post will certainly help you to find effective language for previewing a text.
Steps to PREPARE to Preview a Text
- Before you preview a text with your child, read it yourself.
- Sum up what it is about in one sentence.
- If the text is a narrative, or story, ask yourself, is you child familiar with this scenario? If the text is about a trip to the zoo, has your child been to the zoo? Will he have any real-life reference points for comprehending the text? If the text is expository, or non-fiction, what does your child already know about this topic? If the content is unfamiliar, you will have to be more thorough during your preview.
- Identify key vocabulary terms that are integral to the theme of the book. They may be used multiple times throughout the text.
- Identify any words that your child will have difficulty reading, either because their meaning is unfamiliar to him or because they are difficulty to decode.
Let’s see how you could Preview a Text with the book Edna Bakes Cookies.
1. Read the title of the text to your child. The title is Edna Bakes Cookies. Edna is the elephant. That’s an unusual name, but both Edna and elephant start with the sound /e/. What kind of cookies do you like to bake? Do you remember what ingredients we use? What do you think the book will be about? Here is where you can share your one-sentence summary of the book.
2. Do a “walk through” of each page. This is when you can address key vocabulary words and difficult-to-decode words. What is Edna doing on this page? If he does not know, provide more cues. Edna is putting in the first ingredient. Look at the illustration. What ingredient is that? If needed, remember we talked about the ingredients you use to make a cake? Sugar, flour and …? Yes, butter! Notice how the word “butter” starts with the letter b. What sound does b make? Yes, /b/. Where does Edna put the butter? Yes, in the bowl. See how you are continually cuing in ways that draw your child’s attention to key words in the text.
3. Do you remember the main character’s name? If not, provide the elephant’s name. With every page, keep asking your child what the elephant’s name is. Edna is a difficult to remember and difficult to decode word so he will need as much exposure as possible to recall the name when it is his time to read. It looks like Edna is still adding ingredients to the bowl. What ingredient does that look like? It does not make sense to cue your child to the beginning letter of sugar, s, because the s in sugar is irregular and sounds like /sh/. It is unlikely that a beginning reader will be able to use visual cues to decode this word. However, the next ingredient is flour and directing your child’s attention to the first letter in flour, f, may help him to decode the word. So we already have butter and sugar for ingredients. The next ingredient begins with a f. What sound does an f make? Which ingredient begins with the sound /f/? Yes, flour! Great job. Can you find the word “bowl” in this sentence? If the child cannot, cue him to the beginning letter/sound in “bowl.” What sound does bowl begin with? Yes, /b/. Do you see a word in this sentence that begins with the sound /b/? Child points to the word “bowl.” Excellent, let’s read the entire sentence together. Read She puts flour in the ________, and see if your child can supply the word “bowl.” You can also direct his attention to the word “bowl” in the previous sentence. Or you can ask him to find the word “bowl” or read the entire sentence.
4. What is Edna doing with the batter? If child does not know, say, Look she is using a spoon. What is she doing to the batter? Yes, Edna stirs the batter. Ooh, yummy. Look at the next page. What is she doing with the batter now? Yes, she is tasting. Can you find the word “taste” in the sentence? How did you know that word was “taste?” Do you like tasting the batter when you bake cookies? You are making a connection to real life experience, which will help your child to better recall the events in the book because they relate to his life. Do you remember the elephant’s name?
5. What is Edna doing here? Yes, eating “more” batter. Please find the words “more” and “batter” for me. Why do you think the word “more” is capitalized? Yes, because she ate more (in a loud voice)! Try reading the entire sentence. Now look at the next page. What is the elephant doing? Try to read the sentence. If you do not know a word, look at the first letter.
6. Okay, I have to ask ONE MORE time! What is the elephant’s name? Look at the bowl! Where is the batter? How did it disappear? Yes, Edna ate it all. She ate more and more until it was all gone: No more batter! Point to the word “more.” Great! Go back two pages, do you see the word “more” there, too? “More” contains an -or vowel pattern, which is more advanced and likely unfamiliar to your child. Consequently, when your child is reading the text himself, cuing him to “sound out the word” when he comes to “more” is not very helpful. If he gets stuck, cue with a structure cue, like What word fits in that sentence? Or you can read the sentence to him with a “blank” for the word “more,” and ask what sounds right in the blank?
When you preview a text, use the words in the text as much as possible so that your child hears the vocabulary repeatedly. Now you are ready to read the book by yourself. You know so many of the words from previewing the text! Let’s start with the cover.
Prior knowledge (or familiarity with the text’s content) predicts comprehension better than a child’s actual reading ability (Leslie & Caldwell, 2001). In other words, it is much easier to comprehend a text when the content is familiar to the reader. Conversely, it is much harder to comprehend a text when the content is new. Even better an exceptional reader cannot override the fact that the content is unfamiliar.
When you preview a text, the beginning reader becomes familiar with the content. Yes, it may feel like you are “doing all the work” for him, but he needs all support he can get to be successful at this stage of literacy.
Leslie, L. & Caldwell, J. (2001). Qualitative Reading Inventory-3. Addison Wesley Longman: New York.