It’s time to start reading more “big kid books” to my four year old. These stories have more depth, more advanced vocabulary, and require a longer attention span. I think he’s ready, and I’m excited to share so many great titles with him! But I want to check for his comprehension as we go. Here I’ll share the meaning and benefit of listening comprehension, some of the titles we’re reading together, as well as an outline for a listening comprehension lesson that you can do with your child (including a free printout!).

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My son has always loved being read to, and as he’s gotten older he’s loved to sit and look through books on his own, narrating his version of the story as he studied the illustrations.

I’ve always been an avid reader too, and there are quite a few titles I knew I’d want to experience again with him. So we’ve started reading chapter books together, a little at a time. (This is also one of the most precious ways that he and I get one-on-one time, which is rare since I bedshare and breastfeed his younger sister.)

A Listening Comprehension Lesson You Can Do With Your Child - Real Simple Mama

A note: this article is not about having your child read the books to you; since he’s only four years old, I am doing the reading aloud, but he’s listening along with me. As we started doing this, I wondered “Is he really absorbing what’s going on? Can he make sense of these detailed stories, especially since there are little (or no) pictures?” Hence this article!

What is Listening Comprehension?

Simply put, listening comprehension is the ability to understand spoken word. From oral communication only, you understand a story and ideally can retell it or describe it later. This has so many benefits for young children! It not only increases their vocabulary, but it helps them with listening and speaking. Their imagination is in use while they’re listening to a story with no visuals, and their overall understanding of language (including inflection and grammar) benefit as well.

You can read a bit more about what reading comprehension is, and its importance to young children, here.

My Goals When Practicing Listening Comprehension At Home

Of course, I want my children to use context clues and learn new words; I want them to enjoy these fantastic stories as much as I have, and for us to discover new titles together. But I also love that I can really get my children to think about the characters: what are the characters thinking, going through, feeling? Would my child do the same thing, or make a different choice? What do they think will happen next?

We have so much more time when we’re at home with our kids, than a classroom teacher does with 20+ children. (And my husband and I are both certified teachers, so trust me, the one-on-one never gets to happen as much as we’d like!) That’s one reason I really love to do this as often as possible, even it’s just casual discussion on the couch.

A Listening Comprehension Lesson You Can Do At Home - Real Simple Mama

Okay, so longer books definitely are different than board books or short stories. But how?

Some of the things which will be new, and potentially challenging, are:

  • More characters
  • Unfamiliar vocabulary
  • More in-depth descriptions
  • Lengthy dialogue
  • No/few illustrations

It’s important to be patient and lighthearted when starting to crack open big kid books with your child. Reading is an enjoyable pastime and it’s educational as well, but it may be really daunting to our kids who still fidget and are easily distracted. Just take it at your pace and see how they do! The long term goal is for kids to listen, understand, and enjoy reading as they grow.

The first book we ever did this with our son was The Twits by Roald Dahl. It’s hilarious, has some pictures, and not too many characters. We cracked up! And I was thrilled to see that my son could follow along with the plot as we went. We’ve since done a ton more Roald Dahl, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Danny the Champion of the World (which he read with his Daddy); we also started Mr. Popper’s Penguins and a few other titles. There’s a Harry Potter children’s illustrated version that I might have to get as an early Christmas present! The list is endless.

Here’s your free download!

A Listening Comprehension Lesson You Can Do with Your Child, free from Real Simple Mama

I hope that this has given you some great ideas for what to ask your child! Read to them often and make it something fun you can do together. And for more educational ideas you can do at home, check out my Education category right here on RSM.

What books have you read (or plan to read) to your young listener?

A Listening Comprehension Lesson You Can Do With Your Child - Real Simple Mama