Improving Reading Comprehension

reading comprehension

Photo by: Tim Pierce

Even the best readers can sometimes struggle with reading comprehension.  As parents, you can help your child learn to not only read the words, but also understand what they are reading.

What is Reading Comprehension?

Reading comprehension is simply understanding what you read.  Answering questions about the story, figuring out what might happen next, thinking about what you know about the story and its characters are all important parts of understanding the story.  A child can read well and still not understand what they read, and until they are actually understanding what they read, it will not be enjoyable to them.

How Can You Increase Reading Comprehension?

The best way you as a parent can increase your child’s reading comprehension is to listen to them read and ask them questions.  Have them read either a page, or a paragraph, or a chapter (depending on how long the book or story is) and then ask them questions about what they just read.  You should be able to tell whether or not they are understanding the story by their answers.  If they are confused about part of the story, explain it to them.  Show them exactly where the answers are in the passage they just read.  If you have a hard time thinking of questions to ask, here are some you can use that will apply to most stories.

  • Who is ____________?  – Ask this not just about main characters but minor characters as well.  Have your child tell you how they are related to the main character or something they know about the character.
  • What does __________________ mean?  – Sometimes reading comprehension is hindered because a child simply doesn’t understand the words they are reading.  If they read a more difficult word, make sure they understand what that word means in the context.
  • What did they just do?  – Have your child retell the main facts from the part of the story they just read.  Encourage them to tell just the important facts or events in the order they happened.
  • Why did they do that?  – This question helps your child to think about the motives of the characters and how it affects their words and actions.
  • How does that character feel?  – Once your child tells you how they think the character feels in a certain situation, ask them to prove it from the story.  An author uses words to show feelings (smiled means happy, sighing means sad).  Over time, your child will be able to pick up on small details like these.

Of course, there are many other questions you could ask, and you will get more ideas just listening to the story.  Remember even if your child has a hard time answering the questions at first, keep explaining stories to them.  Like anything else, the more you practice, the better your child will be at comprehending what he reads.

What questions do you ask to improve reading comprehension for your child?

Elementary Reading Curriculum at Smart Tutor

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