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Steps to Success » Thinking Skills

Develop Higher Order Thinking Skills through Reading

When children start reading, they begin with the alphabet and then move on to phonics, blending, sight words, etc. Many people see fluent independent reading as the end point of this journey. However, for me, the main reading skill of a child at this stage is still developing, which is the true story-engagement that comes with higher order thinking.

Once children are confident with building letters into words and sentences, they can start reading more complex stories. At this stage, it’s important to ask them lots of why and how questions to prompt their thinking. As they answer these questions, they come to realise that words aren’t just letters to sound out, but rather, they carry meanings which can add to our understanding of the world.

As children grow older, they are expected not only to understand the information at the surface level of a text (the facts and details) but also to ‘read between the lines’ (to understand the whys and hows). It’s best to start this key reading skill from an early age. This sets young learners up for excellent comprehension grades at school, and it also inspires them to develop a passion for reading which will serve them well for the rest of their lives.

There are several ways to improve these higher order thinking skills through reading. I use all of these with my students and always encourage parents to try them out at home too:

1. When you read, as well as asking factual questions related to the story, ask questions which require deeper thinking: ‘Why are the characters doing this?’ ‘How do you think they feel?’ ‘Why do they feel this way?’ ‘What will they do now?’

2. Next, ask them questions that prompt personal reflection, such as: ‘Have you ever had a problem like this?’ ‘What would you do if you were the character?’ These questions help children develop empathy and to consider things from different perspectives.

3. You can also suggest a change to something in the story and ask your child how the ending would be affected by this. Both prediction skills and a greater awareness of consequences are developed through questions like this.

4. Finally, guide your child to think beyond the story. Let them use their imaginations as you ask them questions like: ‘What would the characters do on the day after the end of the story?’ ‘What could have been done differently for a better outcome?’

All these questions invite children to think creatively and critically, which are vital steps to creating strong readers and excellent learners.

At i-Learner, we publish books which target exactly these skills. Our newest series, Bugbug’s Library, contains graded readers which are closely aligned with the Hong Kong education system. These books encourage higher order thinking through pre- and post-reading questions, prediction activities, mind maps, and more. Not only that, but the vibrant pictures and engaging story lines are sure to inspire a love of reading in your little one. Drop into one of our centres to pick up your copies today.