A reading comprehension strategy: making connections

For parents

Good readers use what they already know to help them to understand new ideas and experiences that they come across in books.  They make links between what they are reading and their own lives and experiences; they make links between what they are reading and other books, newspaper or magazines they have read or films or television shows they have seen or websites they have visited; they make links between what they are reading and what they know of the world in general and how people behave in that world and how things ‘are’.

The process of recognising something or someone in the story that reminds the reader of their own experiences, is sometimes referred to as a text-to-self connection.  Young readers are usually most interested in themselves and how everything connects to them, so this kind of connection is the one that they make first.

As they read, they are thinking, ‘This part reminds me of a time when I ….’ Or ‘My grandma is like that!’ or ‘I sometimes feel scared, too.’

Making these kinds of connections helps readers to understand how a character feels and why a character might behave the way he or she does.  It also reminds the reader what he or she already knows about the topic which might be the focus of an informative book, thus helping them to make connections and better understand the new material in the book.

Good readers also make connections between what they’re reading now and what they’ve read or viewed before.  This process is sometimes referred to as a text-to-text connection and is the kind of connection that comes after text-to-self connections.  For good readers it will happen naturally; others will need somebody to point out the connections before they start to develop and use the strategy for themselves.

‘This is just like that other book I read by this author.  It was about a boy and his father, too.’

‘This book really reminds me of that other one I read about a footballer.  The boy in that book had lots of difficulties to overcome, too, and he was successful in the end, as well.’

‘This is a different story about the three little pigs.  This story is told from the wolf’s point of view!’

‘ Hey, the documentary about whales said that too!’

When readers make connections between different things that they read and view, they are learning to recognise patterns.  They recognise patterns in terms of a particular author’s style and the kinds of things he or she writes about; they recognise patterns in terms of story outlines; they recognise patterns in illustrations by a particular illustrator.  In this way everything they read does not come to them as something completely new: there are familiar signs that they know and understand and this helps them to understand the parts that are different and new.

When reading informative books good readers are able to recognise information that they have seen elsewhere and so are able to confirm that it is likely to be reliable information.  When they read contradictory information, good readers know that they will need to check further to see which piece of information is correct.

The most sophisticated kind of connection is the one that is made between what the reader is reading and what he or she knows of the world as a whole – a text-to-worId connection.   Very young readers don’t know much about the world and so this kind of connection is a difficult one for them to make.  Older readers, however, know more about their immediate community and what happens in it, as well as the world presented to them via the media.  They hear about events in the news and view examples of how the wider world operates by watching various shows on television and in films.  When they make connections between what they read and what they know of the world, they are adding to their understanding.  They begin to understand ‘big ideas’ or themes which are relevant to their lives.

In the next blog we’ll look at ways in which you can help your children to develop this comprehension strategy.