How To Teach Your Children To Pass A Reading Test: Story Setting

7 Important  Steps

Children can pass reading tests. A third or fourth grader may read like a champ.  Every word is pronounced correctly and sentences that are read aloud stop perfectly at every period. Certain  sentences are read with the emotion required by the demanding exclamation point at the end of the sentence.  However, when it comes time to take that reading test, scouring over  the questions two and three times does not help your child one bit, to pass it.

How does a child with such a robust reading ability fail a reading test?  Here’s why.

What is Reading?

Reading is not just a physical activity it is also a brain activity.  When the brain and the physical work together to create understanding this is called comprehension.  Comprehension has many tentacles and mastering each one of these tentacles is what is essential to answering questions successfully on a reading test . Comprehension involves, thinking and the thinking will be different according to each type of reading material .

For instance, if reading a fiction story, the reader should be able to think about the setting, the characters, the problem in the story, the climax, the solution and what happens at each succession of the plot  i.e . the beginning , middle and the end of the story. When reading non-fiction the reader should be able to understand the topic of the story including major or minor details and most importantly vocabulary. As a matter of fact vocabulary is essential for all types of reading.   These reading essentials are referred to as high order or critical thinking skills . These skills are necessary to successfully pass a reading test.

How Can Your Child Pass  Reading Tests ?

Ok so how does this help your child pass a reading test?  Read this article.  It will give you creative ideas on how to  bolster your child’s ability in each of the comprehension areas mentioned above. This article is broken up into seven comprehension areas.

Part 1 of this article, will address the setting of a fiction book.

Very simply , setting answers the question, where does the story take place?  We can be  creative and ask this question whenever your child watches a movie or visits a new place. Use the word “setting” often, interchange it with “where does this take place”. Get your child familiar with the word “setting” as soon as possible, first or second grade would not be too soon. Going through life we encounter many settings like the supermarket, the mall, the post office etc.  Ask questions about your child’s surroundings. What belongs in a mall? What do you see in a park?  These are important questions to ask that will most likely give answers to  questions on a reading test.

Reading Test Questions

Sometimes a reading question will be very straight forward, for instance, where does the story take place or what is the setting in X, Y or Z chapter.  However sometimes the test question can be anything but straight forward. For example, in a fiction story there may be many settings.  Suppose one chapter of a story takes place at the beach. Of course your child will know that from discussion that in a beach setting there is water, boats, shells, etc.

A typical reading question may read.  “In this story there is a farm.  Is this the setting where Jane and Sarah found the unique shells?”  This can confound a reader if they are not familiar with where shells are found.  Of course your child, through many discussions, will know exactly where shells are found and would unequivocally answer no.  if asked to explain (which many reading tests do ask)  they would respond that shells are found at the beach. Sarah found the shells when they were at the beach in chapter 2.

Another example of a not so straight forward question could be, “In chapter 2 what could Jason use from the setting to help his sister find the dog?” If the setting were in room in a house where there was a telephone, the answer would be simple. Jason could use the phone and get help.

In Summary

So as you can see, understanding places and their surroundings are important for answering reading test questions.  What is more important is to familiarize your child with the vocabulary word “setting” and “where does this take place”.

Sometimes it appears that reading tests are trying to trick the reader.  Not true, reading tests are designed to make the reader think out of the box. In education it is called critical thinking.

Come back for part 2 where we will discuss “Analyzing Characters”.

See you soon.

L. Hughes-Page, M.Ed.


L. Hughes Page is a Field Supervisor to student teachers in the Graduate Department of Education at Gwynedd Mercy University.