Reading comprehension is essential to success in school and in life. You play a major role in helping your kids retain the information they read. There are basic and more advanced strategies that any parent can use to assist their children in this area.

Basic Steps to Strengthen Comprehension

  1. Make it fun. Your child may already feel uneasy if reading is an area of weakness. Project a calm and happy attitude and even try to turn reading into a game.

  2. Practice. Practice. Practice. Encourage your children to take advantage of every opportunity to test their reading skills. In addition to books, they can read street signs and cereal boxes.

  3. Select materials that match the reading level of your child. People retain material best when they can read at least 90% of the words. Otherwise, they’ll get distracted by asking questions or trying to figure out the meanings of unfamiliar words.

  4. Choose subjects your kids love. It’s easier to get your kids to read if you keep their passions in mind. Browse your local library for new books about dinosaurs, fairy princesses, or any other area of interest.

  5. Create a summary. Ask your child to recap what was just read. If they struggle, prompt them gently by dropping some clues. When they get it right, praise them for doing a great job.

  6. Take time off. Small children and even some adults have limited attention spans. Alternate between reading and other activities such as baking cookies or taking a walk.

  7. Break long texts down into smaller segments. Approach a large textbook a few pages or one chapter at a time. You can gradually increase the length of reading assignments as your child progresses.

  8. Find a comfortable reading spot. Designate a special area for reading. It could be the corner of the living room couch or while sitting at the dining room table.

  9. Discuss the reading material. Encourage conversation about whatever you and your child are reading. Question one another and share your impressions.

  10. Supplement reading with other activities. Generate more enthusiasm by combining reading with other special activities. This will give your children something to look forward to. If you’re reading a book about the American Civil War, you could plan a family outing to a local museum or even Gettysburg.

  11. Read aloud to each other. Take turns reading aloud to each other. Kids learn faster when they hear and see words at the same time.

  12. Go back and re-read. Let your kids know that a smart student goes back and re-reads sections that they find difficult. Tell them that even adults do this.

Advanced Steps to Strengthen Comprehension

  1. Scan the text before reading. Give a complicated textbook the once-over before you plunge in. Suggest that your kids focus on the chapter titles, section headings, and any words in bold or italics.

  2. Take notes. Purchase a memo pad and sticky notes so your children can jot down thoughts and questions as they read. This is called active reading. Older kids may be more comfortable taking notes using their eBook reader.

  3. Experiment with inferences. Explain what inferences are and how to use them. Making an inference is when you draw conclusions based on clues in the text and your own experiences.

  4. Spot flag words. Talk with your kids about how flag words help you to understand a text by establishing word relationships. Give examples such as analogies, cause and effect connections, or comparing and contrasting.

  5. Map the story. Some readers have a more visual learning style. These kids may benefit from drawing squares or circles and filling them in with elements of the story such as characters, plot, and theme.

With skillful guidance, even children who are reluctant to read can discover the joys of reading for pleasure. As a parent, you’re the best role model and instructor for helping your kids to build reading comprehension skills and love of literature for a lifetime.