The ability to compare and contrast between fiction and nonfiction, or elements of a story, significantly increases your child’s reading comprehension.
When comparing, students are thinking about how things are alike. When contrasting, they are noting how things are different. An example might be “How are animals and people alike? How are they different?”
By helping a child compare and contrast, you are building her background knowledge and helping her subtly analyze and categorize. This connection enhances a child’s ability to remember key details in a story.
Here are two easy ways to practice this skill:
Let your child choose a story of interest. Use a simple “T” chart to compare and contrast two characters in the story. On a plain piece of paper make a large capital “T” with the descending part of the letter in the middle, dividing the paper into equal left and right columns. On the top of the left column print the word same. On the right top, print the word different. Help him find at least five traits that the characters share, such as “they live in the same city.” Then find five that make them different: one was a girl, one was a boy, etc.
If your child likes ocean animals, together read a simple nonfiction story about whales and another one about fish. Your local librarian can help you choose appropriate, easy books. When done reading both books, draw a simple Venn diagram on plain white paper. (A Venn diagram is two similar size circles that overlap and intersect in the middle.) Label the middle part that intersects “same.” On the top of the left side of the intersection, write “whales.” On the top of the right side, write “fish.” Then help your child write at least three details in each section. For example in the whales section she could write “comes up for air, babies are born alive, tail goes up and down.” On the fish side she could write “breathes under water, tail moves side-to-side, babies hatch from eggs.” In the share intersection she could write “both live in water, both swim, both move with their tails.”
This kind of practice helps a young reader structure events, characters, and information from what they read. This structure then becomes a good foundation to promote greater reading comprehension.
Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.