If you want to understand a book, connect what you’re reading to what you already know. Brain researchers remind us of the importance of these connections.
You can make them in a variety of ways. Let’s start with fiction.
Here’s the most important thing to do when reading fiction: Put yourself in the position of the protagonist! The purpose of fiction is to help us escape from reality, so do so. Don’t just see the characters; see what they see. Don’t just read about their feelings; feel what they feel.
Instead of thinking of yourself as watching a movie screen, put yourself onto the screen and become part of the action.
You can even make connections to your life when reading nonfiction. For example, when reading about a dispute over water resources, you could think about classroom arguments over using special pens. Perhaps a queen reminds you of a teacher you had, or a general reminds you of a coach. Maybe a famous telegram makes you think of a recent Twitter post, or a debate at the conclusion of a war reminds you of a similar debate in a sci-fi novel.
These connections won’t seem obvious, so you’ll have to work to create them. The work will pay off, though, when you find yourself remembering details that you used to forget.
When reading aloud to your child, use questions to connect the story to her personal experience. “Would you want to be friends with this character?” “How would you feel if he had done that to you?” “What would you do when faced with this decision?” “Have you ever felt this way before?”