How to Help My 3rd Grader with Reading Comprehension

May 3, 2022

How to Help My 3rd Grader with Reading Comprehension

Third graders are still working to sound out new words, but reading at this grade level might focus more on reading to learn. When third graders read books for Language Arts, they may be asked to answer questions about the story or perhaps think more critically about the plot.

In third grade, students also may be reading short (or long) chapter books. For children who struggle with comprehension, though, these longer books could be challenging. Parents who are wondering how to help my 3rd grader with reading comprehension can use these strategies at home:

  • Teach children to chunk the text
  • Listen and read
  • Use comprehension bookmarks
  • Read again to boost understanding

How to Help My 3rd Grader with Reading Comprehension

The W/H of Comprehension

In earlier elementary grades, students might have focused on answering the basic w/h questions of comprehension. If children struggled with these basic questions, they might continue to struggle as text becomes longer and the stories become less black and white.

Scholastic explains that in third grade children will:

  • Start to understand metaphors in text and other non-literal literary usages
  • Decipher word meaning from context
  • Compare books (especially those in a book series)
  • Use text to answer questions about the book

Students in third grade won’t be expected to write a high-level literary analysis, but at this grade level they will begin to make comparisons between books. Children also will need to be able to pull text from the book and show how it answers a question. This is an important skill because in later grades, children will use text in more abstract analyses.

How to Help My 3rd Grader with Reading Comprehension

Helping Children Improve Comprehension at Home

There are multiple strategies that children can use when they have difficulty with comprehension. Chunking the text, making a visual prompt to guide comprehension and even listening to the story as they read could help improve their understanding. Here’s how parents can implement these different reading comprehension strategies at home.

Chunking the Text

Chunking is all about breaking up longer pieces of text into smaller and more digestible portions. Children who struggle with reading can get overwhelmed when they see an entire page of text in front of them.

Parents can give children a piece of construction paper or a folder to cover up text and show only a chunk of the text (this might be a paragraph). When they read that paragraph or portion of text, they need to think about it. What happened? Who was the focus?

After they have read and understood that chunk of text, they can continue with the next portion. This can help children pace their reading and just focus on small pieces of the story at a time.

Listen and Read the Story

Everyone has a preferred learning style. Some learn with their ears, others need to read to understand, some learn by doing, etc. There is no right or wrong way to learn. Some children need another sensory component to complement the visual aspect of the act of reading and further foster understanding.

There are many audiobooks available that can allow children to listen to the story as they read or follow along. Parents can purchase audiobooks via websites or online stores or they can explore audiobook titles at their library.

Audible includes a list of the best audiobooks for children. Audible requires a subscription, but the app could be a good resource for parents who want an extensive list of audiobook titles.

Create and Use Comprehension Bookmarks

Bookmarks aren’t just for holding a place in a book. They also can be used to serve as a visual cue or prompt. Comprehension bookmarks include questions or prompts that children need to think about as they read.

Children can make their own comprehension bookmarks using poster board or construction paper. Let them decorate their bookmark and have them include specific prompts that help them during their reading.

One site even offers free reading comprehension bookmarks that parents can print. These also could be used as examples if children want to create their own bookmark.

Children also could use colorful sticky notes as bookmarks and as a space to write down key details about the book while they read. These sticky notes can be color coded by chapter. This also could be a great way to encourage children to learn to take notes.

Read and Read Again

Sometimes a reader can get distracted or they might have difficulty deciphering what is going on in a story. Maybe there are multiple characters and each is telling their story from their point of view.

When children are struggling to understand what is going on, teach them to go back and read the section again. Re-reading combined with chunking could be beneficial for children who have trouble with comprehension.

Parents can have children read a few paragraphs and then check for understanding. If a child isn’t sure about what is going on, parents can have them read the text again. Re-reading is a common strategy and even adults re-read.

Eventually, the reader learns to recognize that they didn’t fully understand the details and then they go back and re-read through the story to facilitate understanding. Re-reading as a strategy eventually becomes ingrained and instinctual for the reader.

Other Tips for Guiding Children Struggling with Comprehension

When a child has difficulty understanding what they are reading, parents also need to ensure that children aren’t reading books that are too difficult for them and that they are engaged in the content. When helping children select reading materials at home:

  • Find books at the appropriate reading level
  • Let children choose the books they want to read
  • Consider letting children read graphic novels that offer illustrations to break up text
  • Be positive and encouraging

Parents can remember that all reading can be beneficial. Graphic novels and comic books tell stories and also include illustrations; this can help children not feel overwhelmed by text. Plus, graphic novels can be a lot of fun to read.

Let children choose their books, but keep those books within their reading level. Reading a book that is too difficult can lead to a sense of frustration. However, encourage children to choose books that interest them. Giving children the power to choose helps them discover favorite writers and genres; it also reinforces that reading is fun.

How to Help My 3rd Grader with Reading Comprehension

Use a Reading App to Help 3rd Graders with Comprehension

A reading app like Readability also can help children who struggle with comprehension. Readability includes a built-in AI tutor that is programmed to recognize the child’s voice. Stories in Readability are read aloud, and when a child mispronounces a word the tutor will identify the struggle and provide help.

The tutor also asks questions at the end of each story to assess the child’s comprehension. If a child answers a question incorrectly, the tutor will show them the section of the story that provides clues about the answer. The tutor also will read the section aloud. Children can then answer the question again. In this way, Readability helps children learn to go back through the text and re-read to improve understanding.

Every story also includes a list of vocabulary words. However, children can tap any word in the story to hear the definition or hear the word used in a sentence. The discovered words are added to the child’s word bank. They can review all their vocabulary words again and again.

For children who learn better by listening to a story, Readability also includes a Storytime feature. Children can listen to their favorite Readability stories and enjoy the storytime experience at any time and from anywhere.

Interested in trying out Readability? Parents can sign up for a free seven-day trial period to let their child explore all the features of the program.