A Primer for Parents: Helping My Child with Reading Comprehension

April 14, 2020

A Primer for Parents: Helping My Child with Reading Comprehension

Helping a child with reading comprehension can teach you many lessons. The biggest lesson involved, however, is learning how important it is to ask questions during reading time. The “wh” questions of stories–who, what, when and where—are useful if you want to help a child understand what they are reading.

As a parent, sometimes you want to just read the story, tuck them in and say goodnight. The days can be exhausting. However, when you’re child struggles to understand the stories, talking about the story helps them think about what they just read or heard.

No parent wants to watch their child struggle, and sometimes you don’t always know the right way to help. You might not even understand why your child is struggling. Reading difficulties can have many causes; some kids may struggle with comprehension because of an underlying medical condition. For example, reading comprehension is a struggle for many children with autism.

Sometimes comprehension struggles are simply just an area of greater educational need. Some children may just need more support, absence of any underlying cause. As a parent, though, sitting down with a child for reading time only to watch them stumble and struggle or be unable to answer questions about the book or story may cause anxiety or stress in parents, especially if these struggles seem new or if a parent was unaware of the child’s reading difficulties.

Parents may ask “are you listening?” or “why can’t you answer the questions?” The child may not be able to explain why they are struggling, especially when they are, in fact, paying attention. The best advice for parents is to take reading time step-by-step when struggles are evident. Moreover, remember to have patience because children need to feel understood and supported in times of struggles.

Here are a few simple ways for helping your child with reading comprehension:

Reading Tip #1: Chunk the Story

Don’t try to read an entire chapter or story to a child when they struggle to understand it. Instead, chunk the text. This means that you read a short part of the story—maybe a few pages or paragraphs. 

Chunking allows your child to take in a smaller amount of information at once, and parents then ask questions about a small part of a story. Chunking is a way to better gauge how much a child has understood.

For older kids, you might be tempted to read an entire chapter (if you read to them still). Depending on the length of the chapter, this may or may not be a good idea. Some kids could remember details from a longer section of the book, but if your child is really struggling, break up the content.

A Primer for Parents: Helping My Child with Reading Comprehension

Reading Tip #2: Ask Those “Wh” Questions

After every brief section of the story or book you read, ask the big “wh” questions. Here are a few questions to start a great reading dialogue:

  • Who are the main characters? Or who did what?
  • What is happening right now? What are the characters doing?
  • When is the story taking place? Day, night, past or present?
  • Where is the action taking place?
  • Why did the character do _________? (Talk about the specific plot points. Get kids to try to think about why a character would make a choice.)

You can also talk about the “hows” of a story. This is a great question to use to talk about feelings of characters. Ask a child how a character might feel. You can also ask how the action of the story might make the child feel, too.

Reading Tip #3: Listen to the Story

Some children are auditory learners, others are visual. Your child could benefit from listening to the story and following along in the book. You could have a copy of the book and allow your child to follow as you read or just have your child read while listening to an audiobook.

Reading Tip #4: Ask Teachers for Help

If you don’t know how to help your child, ask your child’s teacher for advice. The school could provide additional resources for struggling readers or may be able to send home additional enrichment materials.

Children who are struggling severely with reading or reading comprehension may already be on the radar for additional testing for specialized services. However, if your child’s school hasn’t reached out, email or call your child’s teacher to start a dialogue and discuss concerns.

Reading Tip # 5: Use an Online Reading Program

Parents can also use a reading app like Readability to help a child who is struggling with reading comprehension. Readability integrates an AI reading tutor to help guide a child during lessons. The online tutor will correct any mispronunciations and provide feedback during sessions.

Readability also adjusts to a child’s reading level. As a child advances, so does the program. This means that lessons remain on target for your child’s individual needs.

Not sure if Readability is right for your child? Try it for free today!