At its most basic, text-to-text connections are when you compare one book with another book that you have read. It can refer to plot, character, writing style, use of language, point of view or any number of literary elements. It is a particularly valuable tool when reading multiple books by the same author or books of the same genre by different authors. These are the conversations we have with book reading friends over a cup of coffee.
An example of a text-to-text connection is when one notices: "This is a similar problem to one the character faced in another book I've read." or "This story takes place in the same time period as another book I've read."
You can model and have these types of conversations with your children and build a deeper understanding of literature and a culture of literary discussion by asking questions like:
What does this remind me of in another book I've read?
How is this text similar to other things I've read?
How is this text different from other things I've read?
Have I read or seen something like this before?
An example of a text-to-world connection is while reading an article about a particular topic, the reader makes a connection to something they've seen on the news about the same topic or a documentary they watched. To think about these big picture connections, you would ask questions like:
What does this text remind me of in the real world?
How is this similar to or different from things in the real world?
How did that part relate to the world around me?
The role of parents and other caring adults in modeling this type of strategic thought is vital. It takes time, practice and lots of good examples for children to learn how to go from making any connection they can think of to making connections that truly add to their comprehension. Additionally, it is not unusual for students, particularly young children, to lack the ability to make text-to-world connections for certain books. They lack the appropriate background knowledge or experiences to fully understand the text. The author has assumptions about the reader and the background knowledge they bring to the reading. By modeling our own text-to-world connections and helping to build a child's background knowledge, we can help to connect the dots for our children and open the door to deeper understanding. The best part is that expanding your child's comprehension in this way requires nothing more than mindful and purposeful conversation.