Some children may decode text fluently. Parents might not notice any struggles as a child reads aloud. Yet, when a parent or teacher asks the child about what they read, the child doesn’t seem to be able to know or provide detailed answers to questions about the plot or characters.
Reading struggles don’t always involve having difficulty with decoding skills. Some children struggle with comprehending what they read. As stories become more difficult and comprehension benchmarks become more abstract, children may fall further behind peers. What helps with reading comprehension, and how do parents identify comprehension struggles?
Comprehension Could be a Hidden Struggle
Parents often read aloud to their young children. Reading aloud helps children learn to love books and stories, and it also introduces them to new words. As children gain proficiency in sounding words, parents may encourage them to read stories aloud. Children and parents might even alternate pages when reading together.
When a child isn’t making any mistakes when reading aloud, parents may believe that their reading is perfectly fine. Unfortunately, comprehension could be a hidden struggle that isn’t always obvious until parents begin to dig deeper when reading.
How do parents know if their child is struggling to understand a story? When reading to young children or when children are reading aloud to parents, talk about the story together. Parents may focus on the w/h questions of comprehension: who, what, where, when, why and how.
As parents and children read together, focus on these questions. See if children can easily answer the basics about the story. Who are the main characters? What are they doing? Where does the story take place?
Every few questions, parents can ask children what’s happening and what children may think might happen next. Asking about predictions can help children think ahead about the story and teach children to look for and use clues in the text.
How to Help Children Who Struggle with Comprehension
Every grade level has different comprehension benchmarks or skills that must be mastered by students. In earlier grade levels, children may focus more on those key w/h questions. They may learn to talk about character traits and comparing and contrasting different elements. Later on, comprehension may become more focused on reading between the lines and making inferences.
All these skills will build until eventually children become high schoolers who are then expected to make more involved and deeper literary analyses. They may need to eventually compare book themes to current events and analyze characters and how those characters might relate to modern day struggles.
Reading skills are the building blocks of learning. Eventually children need to be able to read to understand across all subjects. Comprehension struggles could affect children beyond the pages of a book; reading assignments for science and social studies could become more difficult for them, too.
Helping children with comprehension may look different at each grade level. Here are some basic reading comprehension strategies, though, that could work for children who struggle with this literacy skill:
- Use graphic organizers. Creating graphic organizers can help children organize material so they can better process it. Parents can print out graphic organizers for story characters, plot and other elements, too.
- Take notes. Sticky notes could be used for children who read chapter books to make notes as they read. This can help them remember details of the story and work on how these pieces may form a greater whole as the plot continues to develop in later chapters.
- Make a comprehension bookmark. These handy bookmarks don’t just help a child remember their page number in a book, but they also could contain prompts or notes that children can think about as they read. Parents can find many different examples of comprehension bookmarks online.
- Play comprehension catch. A beach ball can be used as a fun story comprehension game. Write comprehension questions or prompts on different sections of the ball. Toss it back and forth; whatever prompt lands face up is what the child needs to answer or discuss.
- Encourage children to re-read. Re-reading sections or even a chapter of a book can help the reader to catch information they may have missed or just didn’t understand. Sometimes children and adults may not focus completely as they read and miss information in the process.
- Chunk the text. When reading with children, chunk text into manageable pieces. Have children read a page or just a paragraph and encourage them to summarize what they read. They also can identify words they don’t know and look them up. This can help children not feel so overwhelmed as they read. Parents may even teach children to use a piece of paper to cover up the rest of the page to focus on specific text.
- Print out worksheets to help children work on comprehension. Some sites offer free comprehension worksheets that parents can use at home to help their child. These worksheets usually have a block of text that children need to read, then they need to answer questions about what they read.
- Explore free apps via Google Play or the App Store. There are many free apps available on the App Store or Google Play. Some apps focus on helping children with inferencing. Others could provide basic reading comprehension help. Parents can type in “reading comprehension free” to see their app options.
When using free apps, though, parents also might want to turn off in-app purchases through their phone. Some of these apps let users make purchases that could lead to charges to a parent’s account.
Use Readability to Help Children with Comprehension
Some children who struggle with reading comprehension may need more guided instruction. Readability provides a lesson-based approach to reading and can help children gain proficiency in both reading fluency and comprehension.
With Readability, children read stories aloud. A built-in AI tutor is programmed to understand and learn each child’s voice; as they read, the AI tutor will identify when they need help or if they stumble. The tutor also asks questions at the end of each story to help measure a child’s level of comprehension.
Children will only move to the next reading level when they have mastered reading fluency and reading comprehension. To help children gain understanding of stories, children also can use Readability’s Storytime feature to listen to the story. Readability provides an audio narration of each book in the child’s library.
Within every story that a child reads, they also can explore different words. When they click on a word that is new, they can see the definition or how it is used in a sentence. Each new word that a child explores is then included into their own word library. They can explore their list of words over and over again to gain mastery.
Parents may be concerned about how they can measure their child’s progress in reading apps. Readability provides parents with access to a Progress Dashboard for their child. This portal displays the child’s reading data including their reading level and how long they used Readability.
All this data also can be compiled into a report that can be emailed to the child’s teacher. This can help facilitate communication about a child’s reading progress between home and school.
Not every child will love every reading app; exploring the app before paying for a subscription can help parents—and their children—understand if Readability is the best fit. Interested in trying out Readability? Sign up for a free seven-day trial today!