Is your child struggling with reading comprehension?
Before you help him/her, it is important to understand the underlying causes of the reading challenges that your child is facing.
What is reading comprehension?
Researchers have defined reading comprehension as a multi-faceted process where readers construct meaning as they interact with the text.
Comprehension is only possible if the reader activates prior knowledge and past experiences to actively respond to the reading material.
The way each child uses their background knowledge and strategies to understand the text then leads to different interpretations of the reading material.
What are some of the difficulties in reading comprehension?
Often, the main problem with reading comprehension is that children lack the strategies to actively engage with the text so that they can understand it.
Some of these strategies that may prove to be challenging for them include decoding the words and making inferences.
As a result, children find it difficult to understand what they are reading. Research has revealed that the explicit teaching of such strategies can improve reading comprehension.
Here are some ways how you can help improve your child’s reading comprehension.
1. Excite your child about reading and help them make connections to the story
When reading, there is no need to jump straight into the story. Get your child to first look at the book cover or title of the story and make predictions about what the story is going to be.
Excite your child about reading by activating their background knowledge about the story. Then have them recall what they already know about the topic mentioned in the story. This will enable them to connect better to what they are going to read, and thus increase their levels of reading comprehension.
2. Decoding difficulties can hinder reading comprehension
There is no use in reading a complex text if your child is unable to comprehend it. If a lot of effort is used to decode the words in a text, it is likely that your child will not understand what he/she is reading.
Scholastic recommends the five-finger rule. If there are more than five words on a page that your child does not know, the text is too difficult. Choose a book that your child is able to recall details of and is able to tell you what he or she knows about the story.
3. Set Reading Goals
According to Reading Rockets, a good reader will set goals before reading. What is the aim of reading the text? Is it to find the main idea or to analyse the characters in the story? Encourage your child to think aloud as he or she begins reading while keeping in mind the goals for reading.
4. Read along with your child and model the use of comprehension strategies
Our children model everything that we do.
What better way to teach reading comprehension than to model the use of these strategies explicitly?
Here are some examples:
Identify the main ideas in the story
As you read the passage, show your child how you think aloud. Highlight the main ideas and important points in the text and say,
I’m highlighting these main ideas as it will help me to understand what this story is about.
Stop at areas that require you to make inferences
Many children struggle with making inferences.
Making inferences is the finding of information about events or characters that are not provided directly.
Show your child how they can look for clues in the passage or use their background knowledge to make inferences.
Ask questions about the text
Show your child how to ask questions about the text. This will encourage them to think about what they are reading. Such questions include, “Why did the character choose to do that?” or “What do you think will happen in the end?”.
These questions can encourage the reader to actively look for answers as he/she reads along, and this will facilitate reading comprehension.
5. Carry out different after-reading activities to encourage a deeper level of understanding
After reading, encourage your child to think deeper about the various story elements by carrying out different activities.
For example, have them visualise the different characters in the story by drawing out the characters as depicted in the story.
Alternatively, draw a story map to show the sequencing of the story.
These after-reading activities can enable your child to develop a deeper understanding of what they have just read.
Practice makes perfect
The best way to help your child with comprehension reading is to work continuously with your child using the strategies as mentioned above.
With regular practice, your child can overcome these reading comprehension difficulties.