Children reading together

7 Strategies to Improve Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension is a complex yet necessary skill to have, and some children struggle with it. Some of these reasons could be: sustaining concentration, limited vocabulary, fine motor skills, etc. 

However reading, and its result, comprehension enters all facets of life, so it is important to continue developing it. Children’s reading levels progress from:

  1. Listening to someone read to them
  2. Reading aloud with someone else
  3. Reading aloud on their own 
  4. Independent reading

Here is a study conducted by the Research Journal of the American Association of School Librarians comparing Independent Reading and School Achievement. 

For a child to progress to the next level of reading they require a few things:

  1. A variety of materials to read

Variety is the key to expanding a child’s knowledge and allowing them to explore their imagination and the world around them. Variety also allows them to expand their vocabulary

  1. The right environment

That would be somewhere at home preferably or somewhere else that can be quiet, like the library. A place that is comfortable and free from distractions such as the TV or phone calls or iPads. The environment must provide them with no distractions and allow them to solely focus on reading

  1. The time to be able to read

You can’t read something in just 5 minutes. It takes our brain longer than that to start comprehending something. Anywhere from 15-20 minutes and more is great. It is enough time for them to get settled in and start enjoying the text. 

When your child first learns to read, they will learn all about phonics, here are 10 Reasons Why Phonics Work. 

Now that they have everything they need, how do you know their reading comprehension is improving? Here are 7 strategies to try:

  1. Inference – when you figure something out while reading that is not stated in the text. 

They say “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” but in reality we choose a book because the cover is enticing to us and the blurb has hinted at something. That’s when we start inferring how the story will turn out and whether we would enjoy the book or not. You can find out how interested your child is in the story by finding out what they predict will happen next.

  1. Bridging the gap from Known to Unknown 

What we already know is the first step to bridging the gap to the unknown. As you take that step to the unknown it then becomes known. And on the cycle goes – this is learning. A child may already know something about whales and orcas, but do they know that Orcas are actually the largest animal within the dolphin family? And the only other species on Earth that has a Grandmother lineage? Allow your child to select a book that expands on something they already know so that they can make new connections. 

  1. Expanding their imagination through reading

Fiction books are wonderfully descriptive, often using the five senses to set the scene, creating a whole world in your child’s head. Finding out if your child can imagine a scene (smell, taste, sight, hearing and touch/texture) will help you better understand how they are thinking and learning. Children also like to tell stories, maybe they can expand on the story in the book they’ve just read and see where their imagination takes them.

  1. Asking and answering Questions

Skilled readers will frequently ask themselves questions along the way. Whether those questions are about what’s going to happen next, or why someone is acting that way or what a particular word means. Children that ask these questions are exploring the text in more detail. While they are reading, allow them to ask you questions about the text and give the best answer you can or point them in the direction where they can find out themselves. 

  1. Putting it all together in their own words

It is vital that children learn how to put something into their own words (summarising) as they will use their own vocabulary and maybe some new words they have understood. To do this, your child needs to be able to list the sequence of events and the consequences of actions. This skill is about identifying the main idea of what they have read and being able to narrow down what they read to a few key points. You can ask your child to compare their own summary to someone else’s review of the book – do they match? Or did your child pick up on something else crucial? This can indicate what else they understood. 

  1. The Ability to Ask Good Questions 

Critical thinking while reading is all about finding out “Why?”

  • Why did the writer write in this way?
  • The character is upset/nervous/happy – why?
  • Why is it written from that viewpoint?
  • Why am I not enjoying this book?

Thinking this way means the child is exploring all of the possibilities and trying to find answers/solutions. They might come up with something that has never been considered in the book. 

  1. The Experience While Reading 

Everyone has a different experience when they read. Many adults read to relax and wind down, many for enjoyment and further education. But each time you begin to read you have a different experience – often an emotional one when reading Fiction. Find out if your child can describe their experience when reading a book, can they tell you how they felt? 

You can utilise all of these or one at a time. The best part is that it doesn’t need to be too formal. Or you can turn it into a comprehension and writing exercise, it is completely up to you. Use your child’s reading time as a conversation starter to learn more about them and develop a closer bond with them. 

To find out what some of the benefits of reading are, click here.

Reading well and independently is the key to studying effectively also. Read our post: How to Study Effectively: 3 Easy Steps to Success.