How to Improve Reading Skills for Children…and Adults, Too!

August 27, 2021

how to improve reading skills

Children might read on benchmark, their reading standardized scores might be just fine. Yet, maybe they don’t like to read or they don’t feel confident while reading aloud. Adults, too, might have dropped the reading habit. While reading those books might come back to them (a bit like riding a bike!), adults also could feel that they need to improve their reading skills.

Looking for ways to improve reading skills for children and adults, too? While some tools might be designed for children, others can be used by adults who want to get back into the reading groove. Here’s how to improve reading skills for children and adults.

What are Reading Skills?

Reading isn’t just about decoding words; readers also have to understand what they are decoding. While early literacy might simply begin with decoding, as children move into higher grade levels they are expected to not only understand what they read but also to read between the lines. Children learn to make predictions about what will happen next and decipher the intentions of characters.

Metaphors begin to emerge. And not everything is as it is written. Often, stories and books take on a deeper meaning or many different meanings. Symbolic use of imagery also weaves into the difficulty of the story itself. A setting sun, for example, could represent foreshadowing of death.

Reading skills might encompass everything needed to understand and decode stories. Not every reader struggles with the same concepts. Some children (or adults) could decode text and understand the general meaning of a story. However, perhaps abstract concepts are more difficult for them to understand.

Some children might stumble on words. This could be related to problems with phonics and decoding or maybe even timidness related to reading aloud. Some children and adults also might need to re-read text to understand it.

There are so many individualized challenges that could be associated with reading. One solution might not work for each individual. Children with pronounced reading struggles might qualify for school-based programs or other accommodations. If parents notice their child(ren) struggling with reading, though, parents might reach out to their child’s pediatrician or the school for guidance and to perhaps begin evaluations.

General tips to help improve reading skills could be used by children and adults who might just want to boost their confidence or fluency.

How to Improve Reading Skills

Basic Tips for Comprehension

Scholastic provides some basic tips to help children with reading comprehension. Scholastic’s tips included reading aloud, rereading text, discussing the story, and sticking to the right leveled books. Scholastic also advises talking to the teacher, too (for children) and reading beyond just the classroom (most children, though, are asked to read nightly).

Rereading text is a great way to help focus on comprehension. Sometimes children (or adults) might be distracted while reading. They might miss key information from the story without knowing it. Many adults have read something only to realize that nothing really stuck. Rereading can be a great strategy to give the brain another chance to process the text. Parents can also teach children to ‘chunk’ the text. This can help them focus on smaller bits of information at a time. Adults can use this strategy, too, if they find that they’re losing focus while reading.

Talking about the story helps children process what they’ve read. Parents can talk to their child after each chapter to ask them what is happening with the characters or just ask children to summarize what they’ve read. Parents also can ask the ‘wh’ comprehension questions.

Reading aloud can be beneficial for anyone. Reading aloud allows readers to hear the story while decoding. Scholastic also explains that reading aloud slows down the reading. We all might rush through text when reading silently. Reading aloud might help readers slow down the process…and this could help the brain process it.

Children move into different reading levels after they become proficient at their current level. If a child is reading a book that’s too difficult—maybe the vocabulary is beyond their understanding—they are likely going to have a problem understanding the book. Even if a book is written at their level, the story content might be beyond them. Themes could be too mature, and children could be completely lost. Make sure books are at the appropriate level.

How to Improve Reading Skills

Could Disinterest be a Problem?

Sometimes parents are well-meaning and focused on making their child commit to all those reading minutes. Reading daily is important, but parents—in their attempt to motivate children to open a book—might just give a child a random book from the library or the family bookshelf.

Interest and disinterest could affect the child wanting to read that book. Many adults probably remember a time in middle school, high school or college when they were assigned a book that they had to read. After finishing the book…there was the dreaded five-page paper to write with a full literary analysis.

There might have been a book that sticks out in memory that was almost mentally painful to read. It’s ok to admit this! Not every book resonates with every reader. Unfortunately, trying to trudge through a book that just isn’t holding interest could mean that even adults had to re-read the chapters…and maybe even re-read them again!

Children aren’t any different. Just because parents give them a book doesn’t mean they’ll like it. Yes, reading a few pages might be recommended…some books start off slow. However, if the child really doesn’t like what they are reading, they probably won’t be excited to read.

One of the easiest tips to follow for readers of all ages is to choose books that are interesting. Go to the library and let children explore the books. Let them pick out a few. Maybe they will love every book they pick, but maybe one might be tossed to the side.

Adults need to give themselves a break, too. When visiting the library, choose a few books that sound interesting. One might not be a great read. Instead of getting frustrated, understand that it’s ok to stop reading a book. The site Forces of Habit addresses how to know when to close that book. Reading should be fun, it should be an adventure. If a book doesn’t hold interest, move on to one that does.

Over time, and maybe after reading many different genres and authors, children and adults might find themselves gravitating to a certain section of the library or to a favorite author. Everyone has their own taste in books, music and even style. It might take time to find that individualized literary groove…for children or adults.

If adults haven’t read a book in a while, they may need to explore what they love. Children and adults can make an interest list. This can help track down books that might be a good fit. Or adults can look at their internet history. Was there a particular subject that was researched? Adults can find books about their hobbies, or how-to books. There are books for tourist destinations…read a book about the next vacation destination!

Beyond the Basics for Helping with Reading Skills

Adults who really struggle with reading might need to investigate programs that can help with adult literacy. It’s never, ever too late to learn how to read or to gain more proficiency in reading. Reading is for everyone, and there are programs for adults that could help.

Parents who have children who struggle to read, who might not read on grade-level and might lack reading confidence might reach out to the school or their child’s pediatrician. The school might initiate evaluations or other tests. A pediatrician might recommend a specialist to rule out any medical conditions or to perhaps help diagnose a learning disorder.

However, even if children do qualify for additional reading intervention through the school, parents can use reading programs or apps at home to help them gain proficiency. And parents could also use these programs if their child doesn’t qualify for additional help at school.

Readability, for example, helps children with both fluency and comprehension. The program includes an AI tutor that guides the lessons. The tutor recognizes the child’s unique voice and will help them correct any mistakes if they stumble while reading. The AI tutor also quizzes a child after each story to gauge comprehension. With Readability, children only move on to the next level if they can demonstrate proficiency with both fluency and comprehension.

Parents can follow their child’s progress through the Parent Dashboard, which is not visible to children. The Dashboard shows the child’s current reading level, the words read per minute and other reading data. Parents can even create a reading report within the Dashboard that can be sent to the child’s teacher—this can help ensure that the school knows how the child is progressing at home.

However, parents might wish to keep lines of communication open with the school to ensure that reading progress is demonstrated in the classroom, too. Parents can also reach out to their child’s teacher to discuss their child’s current reading level and any pertinent achievement test scores.

All reading programs are designed differently, and parents might investigate several programs to find the best one for their child. Readability provides parents with a free seven-day trial to help them become familiar with the program and to let their child explore the stories and use the AI tutor.

Ready to try out Readability? Sign up for a free trial today!