Reading struggles in childhood are not uncommon. In fact, Reading Rockets reports that potentially 10 million children may struggle with reading. Children could have difficulty in pronouncing (or sounding out) words, they may struggle to understand what they read or they could face multiple learning difficulties related to reading.
If a child struggles with only reading comprehension, they may seem to read fluently. Perhaps the child has no difficulty in sounding out words but simply cannot articulate the meaning of the story or retell what happened. We’ve put together The Parents’ Guide to Reading Comprehension to help parents who are unsure how to help their child with this area of reading.
While some reading struggles could be tied to an underlying medical condition or learning disorder, not all who struggle may have a distinguishable diagnosis for why they struggle. Children also could fall behind peers because of lack of access to books or other resources.
Here’s everything parents need to know about reading comprehension, including resources that can be used to help their child master this important component of reading.
What is the Meaning of Reading Comprehension?
Reading comprehension is all about understanding the meanings and inferences within and hidden behind the text. At a basic level, children need to understand what is happening in a story. Even early readers may be able to retell the plot of the story and name the characters. These are both components of comprehension.
As the child advances in their reading skills, their comprehension also should become more nuanced. While the child should still be able to provide a synopsis of a book or story, comprehension also will entail more complex and abstract thinking skills.
Reading comprehension for older children also involves being able to make predictions about what will happen next as well as being able to read into the character’s intentions. At a more advanced level, comprehension requires readers to ‘read between the lines’ and understand the inferences of a story. The writer won’t always write what is meant. The reader needs to be able to make this connection.
Comprehension is complex, and it can be difficult for parents to teach this reading skill. While parents can help children understand the basic plot of a story, children will need to learn how to train their brains to analyze other meanings of the story and book.
The ‘wh’ questions of comprehension become tools for helping children better comprehend stories. These questions include: who, what, when, where, and how.
What are the 5 Reading Comprehension Strategies?
Parents may not know how to help children master comprehension at a higher level. However, according to Teach-nology, there are five reading comprehension strategies that can be used to help children develop comprehension skills:
Story Maps or Diagrams
This is a bit like creating a diagram of the book. Teach-nology explains that kids fill in bubbles about each part of the book. So one section may ask who the characters are, another the story’s location, etc. Parents can come up with a different map that their child should complete.
Read & Answer
In the classroom setting, Teach-nology explains that this tactic would include a short section (perhaps a paragraph) that the child has to read. Questions would follow. Parents may try this strategy for chapter books. That is, they can ask a number of questions at the end of each chapter.
True or False
A variety of statements about the book are included and children need to label them as true or false. Parents can break this down into chapters for children who are reading longer books.
Role-Playing as the Author
Teach-nology explains this as being used in the classroom; children take turns being the author and answering questions about the book. However, parents also could use this strategy at home.
Writing a Diary
This is all about stepping into the shoes of one of the story’s characters. The child can write a diary pretending to be a favorite character. Parents can provide writing prompts to help guide the child’s writing.
These are simply a few comprehension strategies. However, five strategies aren’t the limit. Parents can use audiobooks, too, that allows children to listen to the story. Sometimes listening while reading could help children hear the intonations of a character (thus, helping them decipher the intentions).
For younger children, parents can encourage puppet shows to recreate scenes from a book. Parents also can buy a reading comprehension beach ball to use for a fun reading game. Reading comprehension balls feature prompts about the story; children can take turns tossing and catching the ball and answering questions about the book or story. These inflatable balls can be made at home or purchased online.
How Can I Improve My Reading Comprehension Skills?
Parents can help their children at home with reading comprehension, but not every strategy may work for every child. In addition to the strategies listed above, parents can use reading worksheets or online reading apps to help their child gain proficiency.
Many sites offer free worksheets that parents can download and print out. Typically, these worksheets are organized by grade level. Parents may need to find out their child’s reading level to find the best worksheets. That is, if a child is reading below grade-level, then printing grade-level worksheets might not be appropriate. Parents can talk to their child’s teacher to find out their child’s appropriate reading level.
Online reading apps like Readability also can benefit children who struggle with comprehension. Readability offers a built-in AI tutor that helps children during reading lessons. The tutor will correct pronunciation or help the child when or if they struggle during a lesson. The tutor also asks questions to gauge understanding at the end of each book. A child will only advance to the next reading level when they demonstrate proficiency; they must be able to master comprehension to move onto the next level.
Not every app will be a fit for each child. Parents can try out Readability for free for a week. During the free trial, children have access to all the features of the program. Parents can then gauge if they think Readability will be effective for their child.
What are the 5 Levels of Reading Comprehension?
Per ResearchGate, there aren’t five levels of comprehension…but six. However, these levels are tied into essay writing, which is a written analysis of the text that can showcase advanced understanding. When readers hit high school, they will write essays about the books they read. Students will need to analyze the text at a higher level. They will delve into critical analysis and express their own opinions about the meaning of a book. They will support their arguments with details from the text.
The six levels include: literal, inferential, appreciative, critique, evaluative and essential.
Literal is the most basic…or ‘literal’ understanding of the text. Inferential is all about inferencing from the text. Appreciative is all about the reader’s point of view. Critique requires the reader to be a critic of the author. Evaluative is a bit of an evaluation of a character and their actions. While essential comprehension may require the reader to apply everyday scenarios to the story.
What is the Highest Level of Reading?
Parents may wonder what the end level is for reading. What is the ultimate goal? Some reading programs use letters to show reading level; the end may be a reading level of Z. Numbers also can be used.
Reading complexity, though, may be based on the language used in the book or perhaps the underlying meaning of the book. Stories and books with more robust vocabulary will need higher-level linguistics mastery for understanding. In addition, books with deeper contextual meanings require that the reader is able to make these connections—maturity and reading skills may both play into comprehension.
For an easier answer to the question though, look to Scholastic. The site explains that the highest reading level only goes up to 2000 for Lexile.
What are the Three Types of Comprehension?
Many sources will note that there are three levels or types of comprehension: literal, inferential, and evaluative. However, as discussed above, comprehension can involve six different levels. All of them require a different response and skill of the reader.
That being said, literal, inferential, and evaluative may be considered the primary three…but that simply depends on the source.
Asking Questions, Using Worksheets and Downloading Apps!
Parents who want to work with their children at home to improve comprehension may enlist a number of resources. Children can create a comprehension bookmark that includes thoughtful prompts that encourage them to think more about the meaning of the story. A bookmark could serve as a physical reminder of those key ‘wh’ questions.
Parents also could download free reading comprehension worksheets online. These often include little chunks of text with questions that gauge understanding. Or parents can ask their child’s teacher for additional reading worksheets.
A reading app like Readability can provide children with a virtual reading tutor. The built-in AI tutor can take the place of an in-person instructor to help children progress in their reading comprehension skills. Parents who want to get their child started with the program can sign up for a free trial online!