How to Improve Reading Comprehension: 2nd Grade Tips and Ideas

April 16, 2021

how to improve reading comprehension 2nd grade

Parents of second graders may be eying third-grade expectations, and, for some students, third grade may be the beginning of a more demanding curriculum. What reading level should second-graders hit to be prepared for third grade?

According to Scholastic, the reading level for the beginning of third grade is J; this corresponds to a Lexile® of around 520. If a child struggles with comprehension, they may struggle with chapter books in third grade. Here’s how to improve reading comprehension for children in the 2nd grade.

How Can I Improve My Child’s Reading Comprehension?

Whether a child is in 2nd grade or in a higher grade, reading comprehension can affect the understanding of the story or book. If a child reads fluently but is unable to recall the plot or important details, summarize the main ideas or begin to inference (in later grades), they may be struggling with reading comprehension.

Try these tips at home to help children improve their reading comprehension:

Sight Word Scavenger Hunt

In second grade, children probably still have a list of sight words that they are expected to memorize and recognize on sight. Parents can make flashcards with these words to help children identify these words. Sight word scavenger hunts also can turn identifying these words into a game; make a list of the sight words and encourage children to find them during errands.

Ask ‘Wh’ Questions

Parents can read with children and ask key questions about the book after a chapter or every few pages. Focus on the ‘wh’ questions of comprehension: who, what, where, when, why, and how.

Comprehension Bookmarks

In second grade, chapter books may be short. Parents can also encourage children to make a comprehension bookmark to help them ask questions and think about the context of the story as they read. There are many great resources for creating comprehension bookmarks on the web; the site What I have Learned in Teaching offers many great examples. 

Read…Then Re-Read!

Scholastic also recommends that children reread passages to help them with fluency and understanding. Even adults sometimes need to reread paragraphs or maybe even multiple pages if they lose their focus while reading. It’s always ok to go back and reread for understanding. This could become a good strategy for children who need repetition to gain mastery.

how to improve reading comprehension 2nd grade

What are the Seven Reading Comprehension Strategies?

Parents may wonder how teachers provide guidance to help children master reading comprehension. Reading Rockets includes seven strategies for helping with reading comprehension; the article is geared to the classroom. However, parents could integrate these strategies at home. The list of strategies includes:

Monitoring Children

According to Reading Rockets: “Research shows that instruction, even in the early grades, can help students become better at monitoring their comprehension.” While this is geared towards teachers, parents can monitor and help children better understand where they struggle. Then children and parents can create solutions to aid those struggles. This could include rereading or other helpful aids.


What does this mean? Basically, the site explains that it is “thinking about thinking.” Students will peruse what they are about to read and have an idea about why they’re reading the text. Then they will adjust their reading for the text; that is, they may read slower for more difficult material. Children also could ask questions as they read.  Reading Rockets lists a number of strategies for metacognition.

Graphic Organizers

These visual aids could greatly help children with comprehension. And, yes, parents and children can make them at home! Visit Reading A-Z for printable organizers.

Asking Questions

Another strategy from Reading Rockets is Answering Questions. This is beyond the ‘wh’ questions, however. Instead the questions include more intricate reading strategies to test comprehension. These questions, per the site, include:

“Right There:” These can include simple scavenger hunts through the text. Like what is the stuffed bear’s name?

“Think & Search:” The point of these questions is that children need to “search” the text to find the answers. Examples can include questions about a character’s emotions.

“Author & You:” This makes children think about the book or characters and the events. These are ‘why do you think…” types of questions. Reading Rockets used the question: “How do you think a frog felt when he found a toad?” as the example of this strategy.

“On Your Own:” These questions relate personal experiences to the story. For example, a story where the main character’s father loses his job could prompt a question on how a child would feel if this happened to them.

Brainstorming Questions

Children can come up with their own questions about the story and see if they can answer those questions. This could help them test understanding. This could delve back into those key ‘wh’ questions

Story Composition

How a story is composed can be a crucial part of comprehension. Reading Rockets focuses this strategy more on the meat of a story—so characters, problem, setting, resolution, etc.

However, to expand on Reading Rockets’ summation, it’s also important that children recognize different types of narration. Some stories include flashbacks or background information. Identifying how narration changes or how points of view change throughout the story may impact comprehension. If a child can’t understand that a story is composed of numerous narrators, they may miss key points of the story.

In Summary

The final strategy, per Reading Rockets, is summarizing. Children need to be able to summarize what they’ve read. Summarizing includes understanding the main ideas and being able to filter out the info that isn’t so important to the story.

how to improve reading comprehension 2nd grade

What Level Reading Should a 2nd Grader Be At?

There isn’t an exact and precise answer regarding ‘what level reading should a 2nd grader be at.” Reading levels typically progress throughout the year, and teachers like to see growth. Scholastic notes that children could begin third grade at a reading level of J. Some children could be reading at a much higher level, others could be below this level.

When should parents be concerned? Every parent is different in what concerns them. However, if a parent notices that their child doesn’t seem to be advancing in their reading levels, they might open up a dialogue with the teacher. In addition, standardized tests or reading assessments could indicate that a child is reading below grade level.

Can Reading Apps Help With Comprehension?

Parents who notice their child is struggling with reading comprehension could use tools and resources at home to help them gain proficiency and confidence. Worksheets and apps could help children who perhaps don’t qualify for extra help at school. 

Parents can talk to their child’s teacher about enrichment reading worksheets to use at home. Teachers could have some additional materials that they could send home for enrichment, too. It never hurts to ask!

Parents who feel their child needs one-on-one help also could use a reading app at home. These apps should focus on helping to address the child’s individual struggles, however. While apps designed as games can be fun and entertaining, they might not help a child delve deeper into the context of a story or provide assistance to a struggling reader. 

Readability is designed to provide children with help in both phonics and comprehension. The app includes a built-in AI tutor that provides feedback with pronunciation and helps children when they struggle during lessons. The tutor also asks questions about the story to gauge comprehension. Children advance to a higher level as they show mastery in both reading fluency and comprehension.

How Do Parents Know That an App or Reading Program Works?

Apps and reading programs can be an investment for parents. The cost could be a monthly commitment. Parents may wonder what to expect from their investment. How do you know if an app or program works for the child?

With Readability, parents can access the Parent Dashboard to gain insight about their child’s progress. Via this dashboard, parents can view a child’s progress, current reading level and other pertinent data. Parents can also check to see how long the child used the program.

Data from the dashboard also can be sent to a child’s teacher. Parents can talk to the teacher to inquire about progress at school. While improvement and advancement via the app is important, parents also want to know that the child is making similar progress at school.

Parents also may look for programs that offer a free trial. Not every program will be a fit for every child. Parents should feel empowered to try out a program to ensure that it meets their needs…and can help their child’s unique struggles. Readability offers a free seven-day trial; children have access to all the stories and features in the program for one week at no cost. At the end of this period, parents can decide if they want to continue with a monthly subscription.

Ready to try Readability? Sign up today for a free trial…and get reading!