By fourth grade, most children are reading chapter books independently. Many are at the stage of reading where they need to read to learn. At this age, expectations related to comprehension might become a bit more abstract. Children will need to read between the lines and infer meanings from text.
Fourth graders, though, may be more independent. As they near the middle school age, they may want parents to help them less. Yet, if a child is struggling with reading, parents may still need to intervene. Here’s how to help a fourth grader with reading and give them independence, too.
These strategies can help children foster reading independence:
- Teach re-reading
- Use comprehension bookmarks
- Chunk the text
- Make graphic organizers
- Take notes
- Listen to the story
- Use reading apps for guided help
Re-reading is a great strategy to teach all children, not just those who may struggle with reading. Readers of all ages sometimes get lost in their thoughts as they read; they may not focus on the text and not understand what they read.
Teach children that re-reading is beneficial, and it could help them learn and improve their comprehension, too. After a paragraph or a page, parents can encourage children to summarize in their head what they just read.
Some textbooks also will have questions at the end of a chapter that children can answer to assess their comprehension. If they have difficulty with those end-of-chapter questions, they need to go back through the chapter or the paragraph and re-read.
Eventually, children will be able to acknowledge when they don’t understand a block of text, and their natural response will be to go back through what they read and read it again. Help children build this habit.
Use Comprehension Bookmarks
In lower elementary grades, comprehension bookmarks might include cute graphics and easy ‘w/h’ prompts to help children think about important questions and details as they read. Fourth graders aren’t too old for these helpful reading tools!
However, fourth graders may need bookmarks that offer spaces for students to take notes about what they read. Bookmarks for older children might focus on characters, plot or other story elements. The site 123 Homeschool 4 Me includes examples of bookmarks that children can use through middle school.
Not only can these placeholders help students think about key details, but they also could serve as visual cues and reminders.
Chunk the Text
Fourth graders can make a habit of chunking the text to ensure that they aren’t overwhelmed by the length of an article or page. Some books include illustrations, but many chapter books do not offer pictures to break up text.
Children who get overwhelmed when they see too many words can use a sheet of paper or a file folder to cover up a portion of the page to reveal just a paragraph. This can help them break up longer text into more manageable pieces.
When reading only a chunk of text, children also can focus on answering questions about that chunk of information. They can break comprehension down as they read each section.
Make Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers are a bit like a story roadmap. Graphic organizers—like comprehension bookmarks—can focus on different story elements like characters, plot, themes, etc.
Organizers include spaces for students to write main and supporting details. As they read, they fill in the information and can review their organizers to facilitate understanding.
Graphic organizers are just another tool to help readers digest information as they read. Print out these resources online or ask teachers—they probably have a few!
Another reading strategy that can help fourth graders is to take notes. As children get older and advance into middle and high school, note taking will be a key part of learning. Children can begin to write down main ideas, character reactions or other story details on sticky notes.
Each chapter could include a different sticky note color. While it might be cumbersome to sticky note each page, each chapter might have several notes that outline details and important character summaries.
Listen to the Story
Some children learn better when they listen to a story and follow along in the book. Audiobooks can help children better understand the emotions of characters, as the narrator might emphasize certain tones or words.
Older children might just like hearing the story as they read along. Hearing words could help them better understand the pronunciation of more difficult words, too.
While not every child might benefit from listening to the story, others might find this strategy incredibly helpful.
Parents who are looking for audiobooks can check out the titles available at their local library; many libraries offer audiobooks, and they’re free to library card holders. If the local library doesn’t offer audio titles, ask if they could order them. Many libraries might be able to place special orders for these items.
Parents also can find audiobooks via apps like Audible, however a subscription is required. Many smartphones also are pre-loaded with an ereader. Clicking on the app icon takes the user to a store where they can purchase books and audiobooks. Prices may vary, but this is a convenient resource for finding audiobook titles.
Use Reading Apps
The App Store (for Apple) and Google Play (for Android) all offer a list of apps that can help with reading. Some of these are designed for younger children, but fourth graders might benefit from apps that help them learn to infer meaning from text. Search for ‘reading comprehension apps’ or ‘inferencing.’
There also are many apps and reading programs that are lesson-based by design and may offer more help and guidance to students who are struggling with reading. Readability is designed for students in preschool through fifth grade, and the program can grow with a child.
Fourth graders can benefit from Readability, as the program guides both reading fluency and reading comprehension. This means that children who struggle with decoding and with understanding details from the story can use Readability to gain proficiency.
Readability includes a built-in AI tutor that is programmed to understand a child’s voice. Stores via Readability are read aloud; the tutor will be able to understand when a child is struggling and needs help. At the end of each story, the tutor also will ask the child questions to gauge comprehension.
Children advance to a more difficult reading level only when they have demonstrated proficiency in both reading fluency and reading comprehension. Stories are leveled to each child’s ability, but all books and stories in Readability include characters and plots that are age-appropriate. Fourth graders won’t be reading stories that are designed for younger children.
Readability also encourages exploration. If a child doesn’t understand a word, they can highlight it and the program will show them the definition. Children also can elect to see the word in a sentence. Every word that a child explores is added into their personal word bank; they can review their list of words again and again.
Readability also understands that children are never too old to listen to a story. Readability includes a Storytime feature that allows children to listen to their favorite books.
Parents interested in exploring Readability can sign up for a free seven-day trial. Children will have access to all the stories and program features. Ready to try Readability? Sign up today!