I think it’s important for children to read for pleasure. At the same time, there are subtle and easy ways for parents to help their children improve their reading comprehension. When I was teaching elementary school, I always gave my students comprehension questions to answer so they would learn to read carefully. Now, that I have one child in school, I try to check for understanding when we read together. Here are a few tips on how to improve reading comprehension at home.
Pick Appropriate Reading Material for the Task
If a child can’t read the book, it’s going to be hard for that child to practice his or her reading comprehension. Thus, when children are reading a book on their own, parents should help them pick books that are at their independent reading level. Of course, to expose children to new vocabulary, it’s great to read higher leveled books. You can also use higher level books for comprehension if you are planning to read the book to the child. This is also good time to help children figure out the meaning of unfamiliar words using context clues.
Retelling the Story/Important Points
A simple retell can help a parent see if a child missed the point of a story or article. You might ask a young child to tell you what happened in the story. Since she is in kindergarten, my daughter will tell me every tiny detail that happened in the story. However, I remind her to tell me the most important events. Retelling can help your child learn how to give oral summaries. Furthermore, it can help them learn how to paraphrase and include the most pertinent details. When they start writing summaries, they will likely incorporate this knowledge into their writing. If your child can’t retell the story, then this is a good time to teach them how to reread for understanding.
Connecting to the Text
When your child is reading, you can give him or her a pad of paper or some post-its. When the text reminds them of something funny or when they identify with a character, they can write it down. For instance, this scene reminds me of the time when I went to the beach. Younger children might use a post-it to draw a happy, sad or scared face (to record how they are feeling as they read).
Ask Simple Questions
There are plenty of times when we read a silly bedtime book and then go to sleep. However, when my daughter reads a book for homework, I will often ask her simple questions to check for understanding. In the middle of the book you can ask: What do you think will happen next? What is the problem/conflict? At the end, you can ask: Who is your favorite character? What is your favorite part? Who is the villain? Don’t bombard your child with questions, one or two will suffice.
Draw and Writes
Have your child write a sentence or paragraph and then draw a picture about what they read. This reading comprehension strategy is great for kindergarten to third grade.
Parents can make up some basic, right-there, comprehension questions and put them on index cards. Mix the cards in with some fact cards about the story you are reading (such as: Sarah gets a new bike for her birthday, move forward one space). Use a basic board game to play.
Improving your child’s reading comprehension is just a few strategies away!
More from Melissa:
Teaching Theme With Picture Books
How to Encourage Kids to Write
5 Reasons to Volunteer in Your Child’s Classroom