As a parent, there’s no doubt that you’d want your child to succeed in their education. One of those skills your child develops while young is reading comprehension, but how can you help to improve it?
Children need to not only be able to recognise words and read fluently, but to understand and interpret what is being read. Reading comprehension under this definition can take a long time for some children.
If you want to improve your child’s reading comprehension skills, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll be breaking down 3 simple strategies, with smaller tactics, that you can use to help your child.
Different things will be effective for different people, so trial these and see what works best!
Strategy #1: Implement These Actions While Reading
The most important place to start improving your child’s comprehension is by reading (a lot)! First, start by picking a book that is an appropriate level for your child.
You can use the Five Finger Rule to determine this. Find a comfy spot, and pay full attention to your child as they read to you.
Now, let’s get into the specific tactics for this strategy.
#1: Have them read aloud
A big part of good reading comprehension is understanding the different contexts in which words are used. Hearing new words in varied settings, especially outside of the dictionary, allows children to make new connections and therefore understand more complex pieces of information.
Reading aloud is then important for several reasons:
- It allows you to correct mistakes in your child’s comprehension. You can generally tell if your child has understood what they read by their intonation or the way your child has read a sentence. When reading aloud, you can correct this more easily.
- Children have to internalise words before they read them aloud. Therefore, they are going to consider the pace, sentence structure and punctuation in more depth, even if this process is subconscious. This will help strengthen reading.
- It allows affirmation of knowledge. By reading to someone, children will know if they’ve understood something, instead of trying to work it all out for themselves. This can be a great confidence boost, especially in timid readers.
#2: Look for clues in the story
While reading aloud, you will likely reach times where it’s clear your child doesn’t understand what they have read. You might recognise this if they pause, use strange punctuation in a sentence, or can’t answer questions in the story.
A big way to help your child is by having them look for clues in the story. This is known as the Inferring Comprehension Strategy. There’s a few ways you can do this.
- Help your child to ‘read between the lines’. For example, if a story says “Sally’s dog was sick” and soon after says “Sally started crying”, have your child determine that “Sally was sad because her dog wasn’t well”, even though that isn’t explicitly outlined in the text.
- Give your child a chance to ask questions about the text, or ask them regularly yourself. This allows opportunity to clarify and expand their comprehension.
Have you ever read something particularly difficult and found yourself going back over it? An angry text, a research paper, that recipe that’s maybe a bit out of your skill range? Children are just the same!
By having your child re-read challenging passages, you help enhance their confidence and understanding. It allows you to answer more complex questions and dive deeper into character or plot analysis.
This can take your child’s comprehension from quite elementary, to abstract and critical, where they build key connections with other text or real events. Reading things twice is also good for developing vocabulary and phonemic awareness.
So, if reading that story book for the third (or twenty-third) time seems draining, remember that it’s probably helping your child’s comprehension to increase!
#4: Talk about what you are reading
In our final tip for what to do while you’re reading — talk about it! This tactic is quite simple and complements the ideas of reading allowed and looking for clues.
However even if your child seems to understand the story and is reading fluently, it’s still great to check their comprehension level. Start by asking questions directly about the text, before diving into more sensory questions — how would their character feel, what might the scene smell like?
Strategy #2: Improve Your Child’s Comprehension After Reading
Reading books is, of course, fantastic! However, what you do after is also important for improving your child’s comprehension.
In fact, there are ways to build your child’s comprehension before they even begin reading for themselves, and this can continue into reading age.
#1: Talk about what you have read
Make discussion of books or educational TV shows part of your daily chats! Find out what your child is reading.
Storytelling with children outside of reading time can stimulate their imaginations and help them make connections. You might do this through retelling what they have read, singing related songs, or simply having a conversation about book themes.
It’s also great if you can point out things in everyday life that relate to what your child has read, strengthen connections between real-world and fiction. For example, if you see a yellow school bus like the one in The Magic School Bus, verbally make the connection!
#2: Create the scene in your child’s head
One very important element of reading comprehension is visualisation. This tactic helps children understand and internalise what they have read, and form nuanced connections in their own memories.
When talking with your child about a text, encourage them to imagine the scene. Not just what it looks like, but how it smells, sounds and, most importantly, what they would feel like to be a character in the story.
A good way to do this practically is to bring up a scene in the book with very good, descriptive information. Have your child describe it to you and do the same thing back. It’ll help them to own the story for themselves and come up with good connections that boost their comprehension.
Strategy #3: Look into Additional Support
Our final strategy to boost your child’s reading comprehension is really important. As a parent, you want what is best for your child and you’re likely going to try techniques that will help.
However, it can be challenging to know the best point of action if you’re not experienced in teaching child literacy.
#1: Speak to your child’s teacher!
Teachers really are there to help. Almost all primary teachers have specific training in teaching reading comprehension to each age and stage. They may also be able to recommend other teachers in the school who have particular expertise in this area, like a teacher librarian.
By arranging a meeting with your child’s teacher, or preschool, you can assess what specific help your child needs and develop a plan to move forward. If it’s necessary your child may qualify for additional support from a teacher aide. If you feel your child is advanced in reading comprehension, perhaps they can be given some more challenging work.
The classroom teacher is with your child everyday — they should have a good gauge of where your child is at and how to move forward! You don’t have to figure it out all on your own.
#2: Consider getting a tutor
Finally, there are many tutors experienced in the specific area of reading and reading comprehension. At Art of Smart, we’ve got tutors specialising in Primary Education, so you can trust that they’ve got the right tools and knowledge to help improve your child’s reading comprehension.
There you have it!
After reading this, you should have developed some great strategies for helping your child’s reading comprehension. Remember that all children learn at a different pace, so try the strategies and find what works for you!
Looking for some extra help for your child with improving your child’s reading comprehension?
We have an incredible team of tutors and mentors who can assist with implementing reading comprehension improvement strategies!
We offer tutoring and mentoring for students in Years K-12 in a variety of subjects, with personalised lessons conducted one-on-one in your home or at our state of the art campus in Hornsby or the Hills!
We’ve supported over 8,000 students over the last 11 years, and on average our students score mark improvements of over 20%!
To find out more and get started with an inspirational tutor and mentor, get in touch today or give us a ring on 1300 267 888!
Lucinda Garbutt-Young hopes to one day be writing for a big-shot newspaper… or maybe just for a friendly magazine in the arts sector. Right now, she is enjoying studying a Bachelor of Public Communication (Public Relations and Journalism) at UTS while she writes on the side. She also loves making coffees for people in her job as a barista, and loves nothing more than a sun shower.