Children in most grades will need to read between 15 minutes to a half hour each night after school as part of their daily reading curriculum. Some children, though, might struggle to get through those minutes. They may read a chapter or even a small book and not be able to remember much about what they read.
Parents working from home or who stay home with their children may notice their child has difficulty talking about the book or summarizing. When a child struggles to comprehend books and stories during independent reading time, these reading comprehension strategies for parents at home can keep children engaged while working to improve their understanding.
Why is Comprehension Important?
When children are first learning to read, they really focus on the basics about the story. Questions about passages or small books might only ask children about the classic w/h questions of comprehension:
As children read to learn, comprehension can become more complex. Children may need to learn to identify with the characters, explain feelings, infer meanings from context and read between the lines to make predictions about what will happen next.
Reading builds year after year. Eventually, young readers become advanced readers who will begin to critically analyze text to form their own meanings and opinions of a story or book. Real life events might be compared to plot points in the book, too.
How Does a Parent Know Their Child is Struggling?
Reading comprehension struggles might not always be obvious to parents. Some children can read fluently but still have trouble with comprehension. One of the best ways for parents to gauge comprehension is to talk to children when reading together or ask children about the book they read.
Parents may read to younger children or read with them, and this is a great opportunity to ask the child questions about the plot and characters. A parent could notice that the child can’t grasp the nuances of a story, or they might have trouble summarizing what has happened.
Parents also could reach out to a child’s teacher to ask specifically about reading comprehension. Is the child reading on grade level? Does the teacher notice struggles with w/h questions or when discussing the details of a book.
Teachers can be great resources for helping parents better understand a child’s struggles. However, parents also know their child. If a parent is noticing that their child is consistently saying “I don’t know” when asked about stories and books, this could be a red flag related to a comprehension struggle.
Reading Comprehension Strategies
If children fail to understand the very basics of reading comprehension, they may fall further behind peers. It isn’t enough for a child to simply decode text; eventually they also need to be able to synthesize meaning and understand deeper context.
When a parent notices their child struggling with comprehension, how can they help? Here are 10 reading comprehension strategies for parents at home with their child:
- Use reading comprehension worksheets. Teachers could provide extra worksheets for children who need to work on their comprehension. Parents can ask teachers about any extra enrichment activities. Parents also can find reading comprehension worksheets online.
- Read with children. Parents can sit with their child as they read. Take turns reading a page, and talk about the book while reading.
- Use sticky notes for bookmarks and notes. Encourage children to use colorful sticky notes to make notations about any important events for each chapter. Consider color coding notes for each chapter.
- Create reading comprehension bookmarks. A bookmark helps children keep their page, and a reading comprehension bookmark includes prompts that children can think about as they read. Bookmarks for older children might have spaces for writing notes.
- Play comprehension catch. For younger children, make a comprehension ball using a beach ball. Write prompts or comprehension questions on sections of the ball. Toss it back and forth; children need to talk about the prompt that faces upwards when they catch it.
- Use graphic organizers. A graphic organizer can focus on characters, plots, themes or other literary terms. Organizers include spaces for children to write details to help them better understand what they’ve read. Graphic organizers can be found online.
- Teach children to chunk the text. This is a strategy that involves covering up part of a page to only read a chunk of text. This helps children focus on one piece of the reading puzzle at a time. Chunking can help them better understand what they’ve read and clue into important details, too.
- Re-reading is a great strategy. Even adults sometimes need to re-read passages to better understand the information. Teach children to re-read chapters or paragraphs when they don’t fully understand something.
- Listen to the story. Libraries can be great resources for finding audiobooks. Letting children hear the story as they follow along can help children better understand emotions and maybe pick up on other details, too. Parents also can find audiobooks through the ereader on a phone or device or through sites like Audible.
- Use a reading app that is designed to help a child with comprehension struggles.
Strategies to Help Make Reading Fun
When a child struggles with any aspect of reading, the journey might not seem so fun for them. Having difficulty in understanding a story can be incredibly frustrating for a child. Parents can help ease the feelings of frustration with these tips:
- Let children pick their books. While parents can guide a child to age-appropriate books, letting a child choose their own book ensures that they are reading something that holds their interest. Choosing their book also can be empowering.
- Know a child’s reading level. To ensure that the book isn’t too difficult, parents need to know their child’s reading level. Teachers can provide parents with the current reading level—this could be a number or a corresponding letter.
- Be positive. Reading struggles can be embarrassing for a child. Stay positive and remember to offer encouraging words.
- Complement books with activities. Parents also can help children embrace the fun of reading through activities that complement the reading journey. If a book has been adapted into a movie, let children watch the film, too. Parents also can take children on a reading field trip; choose a place from their favorite book.
Reading Programs that Help with Comprehension
Reading apps and programs like Readability can help children who struggle with reading comprehension. Readability includes a built-in AI tutor that recognizes each child’s voice as they read stories aloud.
At the end of each story, the tutor asks questions to test a child’s understanding. If a child gets a question incorrect, the tutor will re-read the passage from the book to help them identify the answer. In this way, Readability helps teach children to re-read passages to look for clues as they read the story.
When children demonstrate mastery of both reading fluency (words read per minute) and comprehension, they advance to a more difficult level. Parents can monitor their child’s reading progress through a parent portal called the Parent Dashboard. This portal shows all their child’s reading data including fluency, comprehension, average accuracy and how much time they spent reading. Parents also can track the books their child has read.
Parents who want to use a reading program to help a child that is struggling with reading comprehension can sign up for a free seven-day trial. With the week-long trial, children will have access to all of the features of the program and parents can determine if the program is a good fit for their child’s needs.
Ready to try out Readability and meet the AI tutor? Sign up for a free trial today!