Reading Comprehension Strategies
By Rachel Wells
Reading comprehension is one of the most complex skills to teach, yet arguably one of the most important. Simply put, comprehension means extracting meaning from text. Comprehension is the goal of reading. Children will only learn to enjoy reading and succeed in other subject areas if they are able to understand and comprehend text.
Reading comprehension begins from the time we are babies. When someone reads a book to a baby or young child the child is listening to the words and connecting those words to pictures in the book, which helps them make associations between words and ideas. There are many other factors that go into the development of reading comprehension including making connections, building vocabulary, asking questions and summarizing, focusing on phonics, and practice, which are all equally important components.
A child who enjoys reading, reads more, and a child who reads more, becomes a better reader and writer! Let’s take a look at what we can do to help children further develop their reading comprehension skills.
Find books for their interest
When books connect to what a child is enjoying, feeling, struggling with, excited about, or looking forward to, they are going to be more excited to read about it. Children love to feel connections to themselves, and when they are interested in something, they tend to be very interested in it!
If your 7 year old finds a book about aerospace engineering with lots of exciting pictures, let them read away! Don’t focus solely on books that are at your child’s reading level. While books at your child’s reading level are immensely important, there is nothing wrong with spending time with book below or above their reading level when it is something they really want to read.
You can also try organizing your child’s library by topics or levels. Which will help them easily find books at their level or of the topic of their choice. Remember, the goal is for your child to enjoy reading and feel encouraged not discouraged!
Read your child’s favorite books over and over. Repetitive reading allows a child to process a text multiple times, and further develop connections to words and meanings.
Point out letters, words, and sounds that your child sees every day. They could be on signs, books, or even TV. Ask what sounds they hear or if they can “chop up” or sound out the words. Immersing a child in the language all around us will build a foundation of phonics skills to build on.
Practice Sight Words
Mastering these commonly used words will help your child read more fluently and in turn increase comprehension. These words don’t normally sound out well, so they need to be learned by simply looking at them.
Asking questions and summarizing
Ask questions before, during, and after reading a story. You don’t need to ask all of these questions each time you read, just a few each time. It is also important to give your child opportunities to summarize, meaning you pause throughout the story and let your child talk about what has happened so far.
Questions to ask BEFORE the story:
“What do you think this story will be about?”
“Does this remind you of anything?”
“What is the title of the story?”
“What is the setting of the story?”
Questions to ask DURING the story:
“What do you think will happen next?”
“Why do you think they said that?”
“Why do you think that happened?”
Questions to ask AFTER the story:
“What was your favorite part of the story, and why?”
“What would happen if ___ happened instead?”
“Could this story really happen? Why or why not?”
“Is this story full of facts? If it is can you tell me two facts you learned?”
“Who were the characters in the story?”
“Can you think of a different ending for the story?”
Would you recommend this story to a friend? Why or why not?”
Focus on phonics
When your child is reading and they get stuck on a word have them try stretch the sounds out (“f-i-sh”), chunk it into smaller pieces (“fi-sh”), check for picture clues, and re-read the sentence to see if the word they think it is would make sense. Remember to be encouraging, and provide the word if they have tried a few strategies and still cannot figure it out. Reading should be pleasurable, not frustrating!
Read at least 20 minutes a day together! When you read, alternate between reading to your child, having your child read to you, or taking turns reading alternating pages. Glide your fingers under the words as you read, so your child can follow along. You can also make reading interactive by reading a sentence and pausing before the end, letting your child say the last word to complete the sentence.
Be sure to set a good example and let your child see you reading for fun too! Remember, a child who enjoys reading, reads more, and a child who reads more, becomes a better reader and writer. Over time and with regular use, these simple strategies can make a huge impact on your child’s reading comprehension skills.