By fourth grade, many children are reading chapter books. This could be a time when kids are discovering their own unique reading personalities and uncovering favorite authors, genres and characters. Some children may struggle to keep track of the plot lines of longer books and parents may worry about reading comprehension struggles.
If you’re wondering: “How can I help my 4th grader with reading comprehension?” there may be other concerns as well. Parents might not know if a book is just too hard for their child or if there are underlying issues like a learning disability or simply a deeper reading struggle. A child’s struggles affect how a parent can better help them at home.
Readers who have more profound reading struggles may need further evaluations, and parents should, ideally, be in touch with the school and the child’s teacher to address these concerns. Parents also could contact the child’s pediatrician.
However, for children who are simply struggling with more complex plot lines (and who, perhaps, do not have pronounced reading struggles), here’s how parents can support their fourth grader at home.
Don’t Just Look at the Age-Level of the Text, Review the Subject, Too.
Sometimes the quickest solution is also the easiest. If your fourth grader is trying to read a book that might be assigned in high school, they may not have the emotional understanding to comprehend the story. Many books include text that may, technically, be written at a fourth-grade level but the subject matter is beyond the maturity of that age group.
This is how “age-level” text can work against parents who don’t look beyond the reading level. Just because a child can decode the text doesn’t mean they can fully grasp the nuances, especially if the subject and emotional issues of the book are aimed at an older audience. Younger children also might not yet have the life experiences to understand the book’s topic or plot complexities.
If your child is struggling to understand the meaning, do a quick deep-dive of the book and figure out if the subject is at level with their age.
As a side note, some children may be able to understand both the text and the topic. A fourth-grader could read complex and mature books; when choosing books, every child is different. Their personalities and understanding of the world differ, too.
We’ve all been in situations where we’ve had to read something over and over again to grasp the meaning. Sometimes this has nothing to do with ability and everything to do with distractions in our environment.
Where a child reads could affect their comprehension of the material, especially if the child is easily distracted. A blaring television, parents talking, and songs on the radio could be distracting a child from focusing on a story.
Help your child find the ideal reading environment so they can lock on to their book and focus their attention on the characters and plot. Noise cancelling headphones could help, too!
Let Kids Pick Their Book
By fourth grade, some teachers may begin assigning books for the class to read. However, when a child has free reading time, let them choose the book. If a child is resistant and reluctant to read, have them create an interest list to find subjects that they like and want to investigate. Parents can even theme interest lists for holidays.
For Halloween, ask kids what scary or unique Halloween topics they find interesting. Are they curious to learn more about the Salem witch trials, the history behind trick-or-treating or maybe they want to learn how Halloween even started as a holiday. Don’t celebrate Halloween? Parents can pick a religious holiday, too, or a day that’s special in the family’s culture. The idea is to get kids thinking about their interests and all the ideas they can learn from books!
Make a Reading Comprehension Bookmark
In fourth grade, kids may or may not like parents sitting with them and asking questions about the book. To ensure kids focus on the ideas behind the story, though, parents can create a reading comprehension bookmark. These page setters also provide prompts on what kids need to think about as they read. The comprehension bookmark could focus on the “wh” questions or maybe prompt kids to think about the story plot.
Parents can get ideas on how to create these bookmarks by visiting Teachers Pay Teachers; the site has many great examples! Parents also might want to let kids craft their own bookmark.
Use a Reading App
If a child is really struggling with comprehension, parents also can use a reading app at home. Readability provides an integrated AI tutor that provides auditory feedback when a child stumbles during reading lessons; the virtual tutor also asks questions about the story to better gauge understanding. Kids move through lessons at their own pace, and stories are never too easy or too difficult. Parents can even monitor their child’s progress via the Parent Dashboard; not only can parents review reading levels, but they also can see how long a child used the app each day.
Parents can try out Readability with their child for free for seven days; the trial period provides children with access to all the content and features of the app. Sign up for your child’s free trial today!