How to Help a Child with Reading Comprehension

February 10, 2020

A boy reads a book on the floor of the library

Children who struggle to read may have issues related to phonics and pronunciation, which also could affect comprehension. However, sometimes comprehension struggles are independent of other reading difficulties.

How to help a child with reading comprehension depends on the individual needs of a child. When children struggle with both pronunciation/phonics and comprehension, they may need more intervention than a child who can’t follow the story or who has difficulty answering the “why” questions of the plot.

Try these exercises and ideas to help improve comprehension and understanding:

How to Help a Child with Reading Comprehension and Phonics 

For children who are struggling with both pronunciation and comprehension, more intervention may be needed. Parents who suspect their child is lagging behind their peers should discuss their concerns with their child’s teacher. Reading Rockets suggests speaking with the child’s pediatrician, too.

A teacher or administrator from the school may order additional reading or diagnostic tests. Each school and school district may have unique guidelines and benchmarks related to more intensive reading intervention programs.

Children who don’t qualify for school programs or simply want to reinforce their comprehension abilities may utilize online reading programs. Apps like Readability are useful because they guide pronunciation and help with comprehension at the child’s own pace. Readability grows with a child, so that lessons aren’t too easy or too difficult.

Colorful and interactive stories keep kids engaged and help to illustrate the plot of the story to improve comprehension. An AI tutor provides auditory feedback to encourage struggling readers and correct mispronunciations that could affect the child’s understanding of the story.

A dad asks his son questions during reading to help child with reading comprehension

How to Help a Child with Reading Comprehension: Easy Lessons for All Kids

Parents can also help kids boost comprehension while reading together. Discussing the book and the plot while reading helps kids stay focused on the storyline and its characters. Parents should ask the key “wh” questions as they read, and some sites even allow parents to download worksheets to help children answer these typical comprehension questions.

When reading at home with kids, here are some ways to zero in on those important “wh” questions:

  • Who are the main characters?
  • What are the characters doing? Thinking? Feeling?
  • When is the story taking place?
  • Where is the story set?
  • Why did specific actions happen?

Kids who are really struggling to understand a story might need to review these questions every few pages. If parents are reading a chapter book, it’s ok to review the chapter at the end. However, also talk about the actions of the chapter as the actions are happening.

Again, revisit the feelings of the character. Try to encourage children to predict what will happen next. And help them explain their reasoning.

Comprehension isn’t just about the basic plot of the book, it’s also much more involved. As reading levels become more complex, comprehension focuses more on anticipating actions. Foreshadowing becomes a key component in many stories. Understanding a character’s emotions and motivations also contributes to a greater level of knowledge about the story and its underlying meaning.

Make the Comprehension Discussion Fun

There are certain chapter books that are childhood staples, and, chances are high that parents read these books when they were young. Judy Blume’s series featuring Peter and his brother Fudge can lead to great discussions about siblings, behaviors, rules and even consequences. Remember when Fudge pretended to be a bird and jumped off the jungle gym? Talk about this with children, and before the outcome becomes apparent (that is, when Fudge loses his front teeth), ask children to predict what might happen. You can also check out comprehension lessons related to this book on Super Teacher Worksheets, although you may need to sign up for a membership.

Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books also are great stories for kids and parents to discuss. Many of these stories involve different points-of-view that make for great discussions. When Ramona’s dad loses his job, the family struggles financially. These plot points can help kids understand the emotions and behaviors of each different character.

No matter what book you’re reading, avoid turning the reading discussion into lesson plans. Keep reading time fun and lively. The conversation should feel engaging, not forced. If a child is stumped about what is happening or can’t understand the feelings of a character, reread key passages. Chunk the information into small sections so children can get a better grasp of what they are reading…or hearing (if you are reading to them).

What About Online Book Quizzes?

Many schools encourage kids to take quizzes over a book after reading. Does this help children with comprehension?

Quizzes can help gauge a child’s understanding of the book, and quiz results may show that a child continues to struggle with comprehension. Are quiz software programs the best way to measure comprehension or gauge reading ability? That really depends on who you ask.

Use the data from school reading quizzes as an additional resource to help assess reading comprehension. At home, though, conversations during reading may be a great way to zero in on what a child understands about the book…and what is still a struggle.

Does your child struggle with both comprehension and phonics/pronunciation? Online reading software like Readability could help them boost their reading ability. Try Readability for free to see if the program works for your child’s needs.