To become a competent reader, being able to read and comprehend the words on the page can only take you so far. Although getting your child to establish the story’s theme may seem a bit advanced, it is an essential component to encourage them to read more, as it increases their appreciation of the story.
How do you get children to understand the theme, though?
Teach It As an Element Of Other Reading Skills
You should include the theme as a component of comprehension after reading. Get your child to write out a short description of what they just read, highlighting characters, the basic plot, and what they think the ‘idea’ of the story is.
At first, your child will most likely stick to rewriting some of the critical parts of the story that they just read, which will result in them producing lengthy paragraphs of description.
The aim is to develop these paragraphs into more comprehensive summaries and narrow them down into a few sentences. The shorter the description, the closer they are to understanding how to identify the theme.
You can go through this process with the child a few times before leaving them alone to do it themselves. You can encourage them to stop at a few points throughout the book to write a few brief sentences of summary for slightly longer books.
To illicit briefer descriptions from your child, try limiting the number of words they can use in their summary. Start at maybe 15 words max, and narrow it down from there.
You should also try to get your child to read various books with varying key themes and plot lines. This gives your child the chance to establish what makes the idea of the book stand out.
It could also be good to ask your child what the key themes are verbally instead of writing them down all the time.
If They Are Struggling
If they are struggling, try writing out the key themes on index cards, such as main ideas, plots, characters, etc. Then, get the child to reorganize these cards into a comprehensive order.
At the start of this process, make sure you are heavily involved to supply the questions and point them in the right direction. Gradually take a step back and encourage them to take on the analysis responsibility themselves. Once they know and understand the key questions, they will know what they are required to look for.
The theme should not be something that children are considering individually. They should also consider character, plot, etc. This will allow them to develop an idea of the theme organically.