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Tips to Help Your Child with Reading Comprehension

Crystal Barrow


Being able to read a book and comprehend what is going on, to pick out key points, details and to make predictions are important skills for children to learn.  Being aware of your child's reading skills is extremely important.  A child may be able to decode large complex words with ease, but this doesn't mean that they truly understand what the words mean or how they fit into the text.  I have grown up with many nieces and nephews and have worked with them on school work. I have read with them and noticed that comprehension skills are often more challenging than decoding words.  My husband and I read with our daughter every school night and have made it a point to be very aware of her reading comprehension, especially as the reading level gets more difficult with each grade.   We have been very hands on with trying to improve her reading comprehension and below are a few things that we have done that we have noticed have improved her comprehension skills. 

Make sure your child is at the appropriate reading level.Many times the school will have the child tested and assigned to a specific reading level.  Even then if your child comes home and is having difficulty with the book, they may need to go to one reading level lower and work their way up.  Even if you do everything right, there are still some concepts that require more maturity to understand.   On the other hand, maybe the child had a bad day and actually needs a higher reading level with more varied information.  Always talk to the teacher. 

Read the book and try to find out what the key ideas are.This is something that can be done ahead of time before the child has read the book or each night before the child reads the next chapters.  Depending on the grade level and time you have will determine how you receive the books information. 

Have them read out loud.Having our daughter read out loud has greatly helped us to know where she is at and ensures she is actually reading all the words.  It as well helps her to hear the words so she can better understand what she is reading.  Reading out loud allows us to be more involved in her reading and helps us to know where she might be struggling based on the way that she says a word or if she pauses after reading a passage.  We are able to work off of her reactions to the book to ensure we have an appropriate response. 

1. Pause intermittently and ask questions when key things happen in the text.

While our daughter is reading out loud, if one of us hears her reading about a main theme we will make a comment to reiterate the theme or we may ask her to pause so we can talk about it more. 

2. Explain key themes that they may not understand.

Depending on who and when the book was written there may be jokes, customs, devices and concepts that the child may not understand.  There are sometimes topics in children's books that the child may not truly understand.  This is a great opportunity to discuss these more complex topics with the child and relate it to the real world or past experiences. 

3. Help them understand different meanings of words they ask about and how it relates to the book.

Even when the book is at the child's reading level, there are still some words they may not understand.  When there are words that our daughter doesn’t know, she will ask my husband or me how to pronounce them and what they mean.  We will usually ask her questions to see if she can figure out what the word could mean based on the context in the sentence.  When there are times it is difficult to figure it out by the sentence we will explain the word and any possible other meanings it could have. 

4. After they are finished reading for their designated time, ask questions. 

When we are all finished reading, we will tell each other about what we have read.  This gives us the time to ask her questions about her book.  We will usually ask what the characters' names are, if there were new characters, what was going on in the last chapter, what she thinks will come next and other questions that we feel will help with her being able to understand what she just read better. 

5. When they finish the book, have them recap the whole book to you.

When your child has finished the book it is a good idea to have them recap the whole book.  We let our daughter be a storyteller and encourage her to be as descriptive and enthusiastic as possible as she explains the story.  Even though we have been going through the book with her, we sometimes throw in little questions as if we aren't sure or don't remember when we think she skipped over a key part so she can look back at the book if she isn't sure.  Sometimes when we just ask a question, she will remember on the spot and add the key part in.   

6. If you can find a quiz on the book, have your child take it.

This is extremely helpful if your child has to take a quiz at school on the book they are reading.  You can google questions about the book and practice with your child. If you are lucky, there will be a premade quiz online for the book.  A website that has a great variety of book quizzes is bookadventure.com.  It does cost but you can try the 7 day trial period to see if this resource was helpful. 

7. Read often.

In our home, we read at least 4 to 5 days a week together.  We create a routine where we all go in the living room with our books and our drink of choice for the night.  We usually start reading around the same time every night so everyone knows when the designated reading time is.  

8. Have reading be fun.

My husband and I are avid readers and audiobook listeners.  We enjoy ordering books and being able to open them up and diving in.  Our daughter sees this excitement we get when we receive a book which causes her many times to want to get a new book that she can read.  

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