Only 34% of American students are reading proficiently, according to a 2019 study from the US Department of Education. This leaves many parents wondering what they can do to help their child improve their reading, especially comprehension skills.
Luckily, you don’t need fancy activities to improve reading comprehension, just books, a library card, and some conversation.
Learn why reading comprehension is important and discover how parents can help with reading comprehension at home with 7 simple strategies.
Reading comprehension is the ability to understand what is being read. It’s essential because it’s needed virtually everywhere, from learning school subjects to reading city signs to decoding a high chair manual.
In addition, reading comprehension is one of the 5 components of reading (along with phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, and fluency), which helps support reading and writing skills.
Here are 7 tips for how parents can help with reading comprehension at home:
Does reading help with comprehension? Absolutely – and that’s why you should read as often as possible to your child to help improve their reading comprehension.
You can read aloud with them and to yourself. Even reading the cereal box at breakfast counts!
Because the more you read, the more words your child is exposed to, which increases their vocabulary.
Imagine helping your child weave a web in their brain. The more you read aloud to them, the more intricate and stronger the web becomes.
Many young kids see the cover and skip to the story, but then they miss out on clues to help them comprehend what’s happening. This is especially true of eager pre-k children.
Teach your child to look at and read the back cover and the front and back flaps. Often the flaps help the reader predict what the story will be about and can have information on why the author wrote it.
Look at the pictures, even the letters in picture books. Sometimes how they’re drawn can allude to what the character is feeling.
Another way you can improve your child’s reading comprehension is to take turns talking about the text and encourage them to ask questions about what they’re reading.
For example, wonder aloud open-ended questions like, “What do you think is going to happen next?” or “Why do you think the characters did that?”
By encouraging your child to ask questions and make observations, you help them generate new ideas and practice critical thinking, a key skill for success.
Critical thinking leads to the following strategy for improving reading comprehension: connecting the text to real life.
Watch the lightbulb turn on in your child’s head the next time you connect one of your child’s stories to something in real life.
For example, when your child’s toy breaks and they feel sad, you could say, “I bet you feel sad about it like Piggie.” (from Mo Willems’ I Love My New Toy! picture book) or “Hey, we read about that in your library book!”
Because the more you help your child learn to connect their real-world experiences to what they read, the more their reading comprehension grows.
In addition, they build new schemas (background knowledge) and develop their critical thinking skills.
Audiobooks are another great way to help kids improve their reading comprehension skills – and you get a break from reading. In addition, listening to a story is helpful for visualization, which can benefit a child who struggles to picture what is happening, which hinders them from following along.
Furthermore, audiobooks also help deepen a child’s reading comprehension by exposing them to new language sounds and vocabulary.
Children’s books often have fun, wacky words or silly sounds. Many have uncommon words they wouldn’t typically hear in everyday conversation. Of course, this goes for non-audiobooks as well.
Not all kids like reading, and that’s okay. But, they are more apt to pick up a book and stick with it if it’s centered around what they’re interested in.
So head to your local library and grab some stories and/or non-fiction books you think your child will like. Or, bring them along so they can pick out what they want.
The more you encourage your child to read what tickles their fancy, the more likely they’ll want to keep reading.
And that helps deepen their reading comprehension.
Don’t forget about children’s events at the library, like read-aloud story time. Most libraries carry audiobooks, too.
Lastly, encourage your child to get their own library card.
They’ll feel more in control of their reading choices, which increases intrinsic motivation for reading (reading for pleasure).
In addition, studies show that interest in the reading material helps lower-level readers improve their comprehension.
Supporting your child’s reading comprehension at home is simple.
Read to them more, discuss and connect the text to real life, and encourage your child to read what interests them.
Kris McCormick is a boy mama, wife, and blogger. Since becoming a mom seven years ago, she’s been researching the best advice, resources, and baby gear from small businesses to make pregnancy and child-raising easier for all parents. You can read more about Kris here.