Knowing Literary Terms Enhances Your Child's Reading

Knowing that the literary terms for the good guy is the protagonist  and that s/he must struggle with an antagonist (bad guy) means that your child is already cued to looking for ways in which the good guy will be challenged by having a serious conflict.

Learning that there are four types of literary conflict in life and literature, helps your child to learn that conflict is a natural part of living.

Without struggle of some kind, human growth opportunities vanish. The basic conflicts include

  • man(sorry for the sexism) versus (vs.) society,
  • man vs. man,
  • man vs. nature, and 
  • man vs. self.

Here is an excellent and free website that offers a complete set of literary terms.

How To Engage Your Child In Reading

I mentioned in an earlier reading comprehension blog that my middle son Chris and I are reading the book, Under the Dome by Stephen King.

We loved the TV series this summer and don't want to wait until next season to find out what happens, especially since we read that the storyline will have to be padded a bit in order to complete 13 episodes.

I bought it for his Kindle and when he's not using it, I read it.

There are many free e- books available from Kindle that can be read on your computer with a free app. 

Here's the conversation I had with Chris yesterday while I was cooking dinner and he was washing dishes: The conversation isn't contrived because when you read a good story, it's natural to want to share it with someone else. The only problem with that is if the other person hasn't read the story, there's no dynamic interchange. So here it is: 

Me: I got to 12 percent today. (The Kindle Fire measures the percentage of the book we are reading, which in this case is about 108 pages.)

Chris: Yeah. Did you get to the part where the sheriff dies? (Literary term: plot)

Me: So you already know that? (I had read that when the setting was the diner at a point past where I knew Chris had read. Literary term: setting)

How did you find out? (Comprehension check)

Chris: He touched the dome and when he did he remembered what his wife said about being careful with his pacemaker.

Me: (nodding my head) I remember that line, but I must have skimmed over the part of touching the dome. I read about it …

Chris: Don't spoil it, Mom.

Me. Ok, but it's just about the undertaker. It's not the minister like it was in the TV show. (learning literary characters)

Chris: Yeah, why do they do that?

Me: It saves on the payroll. The studio combines characters. They always cut a lot out of a book when they adapt it, so if they can combine two small roles and add that cute line, it moves the plot (Literary term: rising action) along quicker. (Literary term: genre)

Chris: What cute line?

Me: The one where the deputy says, “The minister always says, “He takes care of his flock from the cradle to the grave.”

Chris: Oh, yeah. I remember that.

Me: Yeah, it gets a chuckle. If a studio doesn't trim the plot, it's sometimes difficult to make sense of a storyline in a 42-minute episode or a standard movie of 125 minutes. That's why The Lord of the Rings trilogy is so long. That's pretty much intact.

Chris: Well, I'll catch up tomorrow.

Me: You'll find out something different about Dode too! (Literary term: minor character)

Chris: She doesn't work at the radio station?

Me: No, and she's dumb. I like the character in the TV show better. (Literary term: round character)

Bookmarks and Memories

Here's a suggestion to begin. Buy or make special bookmarks together.

You'll never convince me that years from now when you are in your grave, that you child won't cherish that bookmark as a symbol of all the moments you shared reading together.

She'll remember the times when she put her bookmark just a couple of pages ahead of yours.

She'll remember you sitting in a chair grabbing 15 minutes here or 30 minutes there to try to catch up and pass her bookmark again.

Whether your children who have such close bonds to their parents simply don't have insurmountable problems in life. They are grounded and secure with healthy self-esteems and self-image.

I have many other book recommendations too.

A Bit Of Competition

Passing your child's bookmark and placing yours 15 pages ahead will invoke a little bit of that natural desire to compete that's in all of us. That's good! Here's the bad news, however. They will almost always win eventually, but really, this is wonderful.

This is an area where we want our children to surpass us. They have more leisure time than we do, so they should read more.

It also will make us better parents/human beings because we will have to carve out some time from our habits. If we have to give up a few games of free cell to keep up with the reading, then, that's good for us.

If your child watches one less mind-numbing TV show to keep up with you, then, that's good for them, and everyone's a winner.

Parents, remember, that you have many years to educate your children, so you don't have to force with your interactions with them. This is an example of slow and steady wins the race. 

I expect my sons to read at least an hour a day, and they will do this naturally once you engage with a good book.

Whenever they are tired, agitated, or are hungry and have to wait for dinner, I always suggest that they read. If it's late in the afternoon and haven't read yet, I insist that they read.

Paying It Forward - Then and Now

As adults we can always squeeze in a bit of reading time, and when chores are doled out, these are natural times to find something to talk about with our children.

I never experienced this with my parents, but I bet my sons will remember these times and pay if forward with their own kids.

A Message From Amy

I am very fortunate to have shared my life teaching teenagers. Yes, individually, they are wonderful; as a group, though, that much wonderfulness can be a challenge to bear. ;-)

Here is a Facebook message from Amy, who was one of my favorite students from 20 years ago. She sent this to me a while back:


I have to tell you, last night I was reading to my daughter's and after we were done my oldest tells me mom you should be a story teller! I said why? She says because you read like your all the characters and its so fun! We are reading Prince Caspian from the lion, the witch and the wardrobe. I thought about it, and realized that's how I felt when you read to us as a class! So, that's the ripple effect your drop in my bucket had made! I'm paying it forward! Xoxo"

Time spent sharing books with your children will never be wasted.

To learn more about reading comprehension, click on literary terms here. 

To measure your child's lexile level, click here.

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