For some children, reading comprehension can be a struggle. As they progress through elementary, the expectations for reading comprehension will focus more on reading between the lines and abstract understanding. Children will need to think about what they read and perhaps relate it to other themes; they may analyze characters or learn to make predictions.
Even children who are just learning these more difficult comprehension techniques might need more help and guidance to ensure mastery. Here’s how children can work on reading comprehension at home and become more fluent at analyzing details and deciphering meaning.
Older children who need to work on comprehension can use the following strategies:
- Use comprehension bookmarks
- Fill out graphic organizers
- Take notes
- Re-read text
- Chunk text
- Listen to the book or story
- Use reading apps
Younger children will typically focus on the more basic aspects of comprehension. To help kindergartners and younger elementary-age children work on comprehension skills, try these at-home strategies:
- Telling family stories
- Answering the wh questions
- Writing a book
- Creating story illustrations
- Creating mind movies
- Reading illustration-only books (aka ‘wordless’ books)
- Make predictions
Basic Reading Comprehension at Home for Younger Readers
Younger readers in lower elementary grades will likely focus more on the basics of comprehension. Children might need to be able to retell what happened and answer the w/h questions related to comprehension. These questions are:
For younger children, games and other activities can be a fun way to help master comprehension. In addition, younger children can use tools like graphic organizers for reading comprehension bookmarks, too.
Family History Tales
Tell children a story about family members or stories that are from the family’s own history. These also could be cultural narratives that have been passed down. Then talk to children and encourage them to ask questions.
Use Books Without Words
These books are called ‘wordless’ books and they encourage storytelling. Using the pictures, children must create their own stories. Not only can stories change each time, but these books also promote creativity and imagination.
Create a Mind Movie
Reading Rockets recommends that parents have children close their eyes and envision the book or story as a movie. The site recommends that parents read sections and then ask children about them.
Wh Questions on the Hand
Five fingers represent five prompts of comprehension: who, where, where, when and why. While Reading Rockets notes that the setting, characters, events and ending are focal subjects, the site also includes the fifth prompt as the child’s favorite parts of the story. Parents can focus on the prompts suggested by Reading Rockets or just use the wh questions for this activity.
Kindergarteners and other young readers also should work on making predictions. This is a key element of comprehension, as children need to learn how to read between the lines to figure out what can happen next.
Parents also can explore immersive games and activities to encourage children to explore the story and dig deeper into meaning. Other ways to work on comprehension and have fun in the process include:
- Host a puppet show. Children can re-enact the story using puppets.
- Play comprehension Twister. Place comprehension prompts on the circles and have children answer the prompts when they land on a space. This game should be played by more than one person, though!
- Illustrate the story. Encourage children to draw a favorite scene of a story, then have them talk about it.
- Write a book. The child can be an author. Write a story together, then talk about what will happen next and why. Don’t forget the illustrations.
How to Work on Reading Comprehension at Home with Older Children
Playing games and drawing pictures might not be helpful for older children who may need to read between the lines and start analyzing stories in more detail. In upper elementary grades, students may begin discussing characters in depth.
Scholastic explains that fifth graders also will need to understand metaphors, compare similar books, use context to decipher vocabulary meaning and even determine the stance of the author and its importance for the book.
Older children must understand the stories and books they read far beyond answering those simple questions and prompts. While games or fun activities might not be the best resource for fourth and fifth graders, parents can help older children work on comprehension with these strategies:
- Comprehension bookmarks
- Graphic organizers
- Listening to a story
- Chunking text
- Taking notes
While these strategies might seem basic, they can be beneficial across subjects. Comprehension bookmarks, for example, can be created to include basic questions with spaces for students to make notes as they read.
Comprehension bookmarks, though, also can just be a visual prompt to help children think as they read. Sometimes having a reminder can be beneficial.
Graphic organizers can provide a roadmap to a story. These are typically worksheets that focus on a certain aspect of comprehension like character, theme, etc. Graphic organizers include spaces for students to write details as they read.
For some students, listening to the story also can be beneficial and help with comprehension. Children can listen to a book as they follow along. Hearing the narration can help children better understand emotion, conflict and more.
Chunking the text, rereading and taking notes also can be beneficial strategies for older students who might struggle with comprehension. Chunking the text simply means reading sections of the text at a time; students can use a piece of paper to cover up parts of the page and focus on a single paragraph. Then they can focus on the content of bits of the story at a time.
Rereading is a strategy that can aid students across all subjects. If a child finds that they simply don’t understand what they have read, rereading can help them review the content again. They may even decide to chunk the text to make it easier and help improve their comprehension. Rereading can be a strategy used into the college years and beyond.
Some students like to take notes as they read. Colorful sticky notes can be used to mark a page and include important details about the plot, characters, etc. Students might even use a different color for each chapter to better help them and organize their thoughts.
Reading Apps Can Be Used For All Elementary Readers
A comprehensive reading app like Readability can be used at home to help readers from preschool to fifth grade improve reading comprehension. Readability includes a built-in AI tutor that is programmed with voice recognition; the tutor learns each child’s voice and provides assistance during reading lessons.
With Readability, children read stories aloud. If a child stumbles, the AI tutor will help them. The tutor also asks questions at the end of each book to test a child’s comprehension. If a child misses a question, the tutor will show the text from the story that can help them correctly answer the question; the tutor also reads the section aloud.
Readability is designed for mobile devices, which means that it can go anywhere. Children can practice reading in the car on the way to a sports practice or on the couch during a rainy day.
Parents also can follow their child’s reading progress via a parent portal called the Progress Dashboard. This portal displays the child’s reading data, including reading fluency (measured in words read per minute), comprehension, the child’s reading level, how long the child used Readability and more.
Interested in exploring Readability to use at home? Sign up for a free seven-day trial period today!