Has your little one just started reading? That’s so exciting! Reading together has likely been something you have done together since they were very little, and now they can start reading to you! Now that they’re reading to you, have you noticed that they may not understand what is happening in the story as they read it? If so, then they may be struggling with reading comprehension.
Mastering the skills of reading comprehension can be tricky for some kids, but with these eight comprehension strategies, you can help them strengthen their reading comprehension skills.
What Is Reading Comprehension?
Reading is more than just sounding out the words on the page. Reading is also understanding the words you’re reading. The joy of reading is getting lost in the pages of the book, finding yourself in the jungle playing with animals, heading to the moon on a rocketship, or learning about the dentist. Reading comprehension is what creates this magic of traveling where the story takes you.
When kids first start to read, as parents, we’re so excited that they’re saying the words that are on the pages (also known as decoding). This is absolutely a huge step, and without being able to decode the words, they wouldn’t be able to read.
Keep up the praise! However, reading comprehension is a piece of reading that is just as important. Reading comprehension is taking what you have read and grasping the meaning behind the words.
What Are 8 Reading Comprehension Strategies?
Helping kids master the art of reading comprehension early is important. As your kids advance in school, lessons will no longer be about reading, but rather “through” reading. Once your child gets to third grade, they will have to understand new concepts through the reading they do in class.
Reading to your kids early on may help them with reading comprehension without even realizing it. Listening to stories and looking at the illustrations can help them understand what the story is about through visualizing the words and creating mental images. When they’re able to use context clues to learn new vocabulary words, it will be easier to become proficient readers in the future.
This isn’t limited to higher grade levels. You can even use some of these strategies while you’re reading to toddlers to help them build that reading comprehension muscle and prepare them to become good readers. Singing songs can also help boost their comprehension by describing what the song is about.
Below are eight strategies that can help your kids build their reading comprehension skills. You can tweak them to make them appropriate for school-aged kids learning to read, older kids or high school students struggling with comprehension, kids trying to improve their fluency and literacy in a second language, or even kids who haven’t learned to read just yet. It’s never too early or too late to become a better learner!
1. Think Out Loud
The best thing you can do for your reader, whether they’re struggling with reading comprehension or not, is to think aloud. Any strategy you use to help them with reading comprehension, ask them to think through the questions out loud. You can even help by doing this yourself.
Work through even the easiest questions by simply explaining your thoughts. This will help your child hear the steps you’re taking to get the answer to the question. They’ll be able to see and hear how the process works and may be able to do it themselves. They also may feel a bit silly talking out their thoughts, so if you show them how, they may feel less self-conscious.
2. Predict What The Story Is About
When you and your blossoming reader are sitting down to read a book, talk about what you both think the story will be about. You can read the title, look at the pictures, or even read the summary of the book on the back cover. Once you have an idea of what you assume the book will be about, the words may be easier to understand.
This can also help them develop a stronger understanding of story structure, which can help students’ comprehension during independent reading in the future. Graphic organizers, sticky notes, and other visualization tools can help them plot out what they think might happen next in a narrative text.
When you and your little one predict what may happen in the book, they’re already thinking about what they will read. Predicting may help get your child excited about what they will read and keep them engaged in the text.
3. Visualize What Is Read
For many people, when they read a book, they see the story in their head. For a really good book, it can feel like a movie playing in your brain, just with the words you’re hearing or reading on your own.
When you’re helping them visualize, you can read a story with pictures, but ask them to close their eyes. Read a page or two and while doing so, ask them to try and make pictures in their mind about what you’re reading. Once you have read a couple of pages, let them see the pictures.
They may be surprised to find out that the characters in the story looked nothing like what they created in their minds. That’s completely fine! It’s just like reading a novel and then watching the story as a movie. What you created in your mind is never the same as the moving version.
You can also ask them to draw pictures of what the story is about. This will help you see if they’re understanding the story or not. If not, you can use other strategies to help them develop a better understanding of the text.
4. Ask Questions As Your Read
As you’re reading with your child, ask them questions about what you’re reading. When they’re young, you can ask questions about the pictures in the book. Does the mouse in the book look happy or sad? What does space look like? Questions help them become engaged in the book and ready to find out what the pictures mean.
If your child has graduated to books with fewer pictures, you can ask questions as you read. These questions should help clarify what they’re reading, especially for a more complex text. Questions can be asked before you start reading, while you read, and after you’re finished to help enhance reading comprehension and monitor their progress. You can also do this in a small group to facilitate a deeper discussion on the text.
This cognitive strategy can help your learner get used to thought processes that highlight important text information and improve their critical thinking, even when they encounter unknown words.
Over time, kids should begin to ask themselves questions as they’re reading. Teaching this strategy early can help them when they start learning more advanced concepts, even if they don’t have prior knowledge of a text.
5. Connect The Story To Your Own Experiences
Taking a story and connecting it to another book you read, your own experiences, similar topics, or something that has happened in the world is another reading comprehension strategy. If you and your child are reading The Happy Little Dinosaur, as you’re reading together, have your little one think about what they love to munch on.
Do they like to make big, loud noises like Brontosaurus, or do they prefer to be quieter? When did they feel protected like Brontosaurus did when their mom protected them? By bringing the story into their own world, they may better understand what they’re reading.
6. Find Keywords For Clarity
This comprehension strategy may be a little difficult for super early readers, but by the time they reach the second or third grade, they may be able to pick out keywords from the text they’re reading. These words may be new words they haven’t yet learned, silly words, specific information like names, places, or dates. These words can help make sense of what’s being read.
When readers pull out the keywords and understand them, this may mean researching the meaning of a word or a person’s name, if the text is nonfiction. Gaining more clarity in keywords may help children (and adults!) better understand what they’re reading.
7. Make Inferences With Clues In The Text
Inference is all about reading between the lines. Sometimes, the story doesn’t give you every single detail. They may describe someone, but not tell you exactly how they feel. By using the words of the story and the pictures, while kids are young, you can help them infer how someone feels. For example, if the story talks about a puppy who jumps up and down every time their favorite kid gets off the bus, they may infer that the puppy is happy.
When kids are super little, you and your little one can simply infer what is happening with just the pictures. Helping kids infer what’s going on in a story may help them later on when stories can be a little more abstract. They’ll need this skill to decipher what is happening in the text.
8. Summarize What You Have Read
Summarizing a story is simply taking a larger text and pulling out the main idea and any supporting information. This is different from retelling the story in your own words. When you retell a story you would also include some of the details.
To help your child summarize a story, you can ask them to explain the main idea and what happened in the beginning, middle, and end. You can also ask them to explain the setting, plot, and theme. There are also many tools you can use, such as a story map, to help organize their thoughts.
Helping your child master the art of reading comprehension can help them increase their joy of reading. Comprehension can help transport them into the books they’re reading. Using our eight strategies for reading comprehension can help them build their comprehension skills. Explicit instruction in comprehension strategies will give them the tools they need to love reading, in and out of the classroom.
Caribu has so many stories for kids at all reading levels. Your little one can practice their reading comprehension skills as they read books on Caribu alone, with you in the same room, or with a loved one who lives far away!