My Child Struggles With Reading Comprehension: What Should I Do?
Think of your child’s favorite story or picture book: the one that you read together, without fail, every day. They know the words, the characters, every twist and turn. But when your child attempts to branch out and read a new book, they struggle to get through the first page.
What’s going on here? All too often, we see kids who love listening to adults read their favorite stories -- but when they’re asked to read new books, kids often lack the reading comprehension skills to add another title to their personal library.
If your child struggles with comprehension, they’re not alone; in fact, most readers continue to develop these skills well into adulthood.
The journey starts here. Read on for five actionable ways to boost your reader’s comprehension skills, build their confidence, and set them on a lifelong pursuit of new stories.
What is Reading Comprehension?
Reading comprehension is the ability to understand and interpret what we’re reading. Literacy experts divide this skill into three key elements:
For early readers, each sentence is a code. Through phonics instruction, they’ll learn to associate letters with their sounds and slowly unravel words -- and, eventually, full sentences.
Kids add to their personal “word banks” through wide and varied reading. Imagine each new word as a “boost” for reading comprehension: when kids recognize more words, they’re able to read with more fluency.
Using books as a vehicle for understanding, kids uncover more about the world, people, and themselves.
5 Ways To Improve Reading Comprehension
If your early reader struggles with reading comprehension, literacy experts often reference the following five strategies to support them. Apply these tactics in the classroom -- or at home! -- to sharpen kids’ decoding skills, expand their vocabulary, and deepen their knowledge.
1. Choose Books at the Correct Reading Level
Reading should be a challenge, but it shouldn’t be so hard that kids lose motivation to unpack a too-tricky text. If you’re not sure which reading level is right for your child, ask their school and teacher how they assess students’ reading levels.
Don’t be afraid to ask how your child’s school determines and uses reading levels to select books, so that you can make appropriate selections on your own. Tools like the Scholastic Book Wizard allow you to “level” a book or discover new, age-appropriate reads for your child.
2. Read Aloud Together
Sometimes, our eyes move faster than our brains. By reading books aloud, children tend to go slower, which gives them a moment to both hear and process what they’ve just read.
3. Reread Favorite Books -- Then, Try New Ones
Sure, you’ve read the same story about a magical frog for the past two weeks. But if your child latches onto a particular story, rereading it together builds their fluency and familiarizes them with a set of words, which will transfer to new books. Stick with it and share in your reader’s excitement: on the distant horizon, new books await!
4. Establish a Book Club
It’s relatively easy to create a book club: simply enlist your reader and any siblings or friends, and gather the crew to read and discuss the same book. When they talk about what they’re reading, kids get to verbally process the book and discuss major themes, ideas, or characters -- all of which are essential to reading comprehension.
As the book club facilitator, here are some questions to ask your members before, during, and after reading:
- Why did you choose this book? What interests you about it?
- What’s going on in the story? What do you think that character will do next?
- Can you tell me what happened in the book? What did you like about it (or what did you not like)?
5. Supplement the Reading
If you’re reading a book with a TV, movie, or audio format, consider watching or listening to these materials after completing the book. Oftentimes, visual or auditory renditions of a book help readers develop a fuller picture of the story, or consider alternative character depictions or plots. When they realize that people envision characters and stories in unique ways, early readers unlock the power of imagination -- which encourages them to discover new stories.
If your child struggles with reading comprehension, remember that this is a challenging skill: one that can take months and even years for readers to develop.
But with these five strategies and a supportive, patient adult, early readers will build the confidence and curiosity they need to push through -- and, eventually, zoom through -- the books of their choosing.
- Literacy experts link reading comprehension skills to decoding, vocabulary, and knowledge.
- There are several ways to help struggling readers improve their reading comprehension, including reading aloud with an adult, rereading favorite books, and choosing books at the appropriate level of difficulty.
- Regardless of which strategy works best for a particular reader, remember that reading comprehension is a complicated skill -- one that we develop throughout our lifetimes.
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