Help Your Children Understand What They Read

Help Your Children Understand What They Read

School is back in session, which means that children are going to be devoting time to reading as they complete their homework—whether that’s reading entire books, textbook chapters, or worksheet directions. Reading comprehension is essential to children feeling confident as they successfully tackle progressively harder assignments during the school year.

Read Smart can help! Parents, we have tips that you can use to help your children understand what they are reading so that they gain confidence in their abilities and become better readers in the coming months.

First, comprehension involves children being able to understand and interpret what they’ve read. They need to pull information out of a text, and then put it together and make sense of its meaning. In order for them to do this, they need to be able to recognize and understand the words that they are reading, and how those words contribute to the ideas in the individual sentences and larger paragraphs of the text. Children need to then be able to make connections to what they already know, and to think critically about the information being presented.

Have a conversation after your child reads

This goes beyond asking your child, “What did you read?” and accepting her summary. If she’s reading fiction, start with questions about who the characters are and where the story is set. Then ask questions about why a character took a particular action, or how a character felt at a particular moment. Ask about whether the character was confronted with a problem or a surprise, and what the character did in response. Ask your child what she thinks is going to happen next.

For all of these questions, ask your child to find specific information in the text that support her answers. Ask her whether she can relate to some aspect of the character’s experiences (and what or how), or whether what she has read reminds her of another book, movie, or television show.

If she’s reading nonfiction, ask her what else she knows about the particular topic, what she found interesting (or uninteresting!) or surprising. Ask her whether she agrees with or disagrees with some of the information presented, or whether it’s made her change her mind about a particular issue. Ask her why she thinks this information is included in her textbook, and then follow up with relevant questions.

For instance, is it about an historic event? A description of how a particular machine works? Information about an animal? Ask her about any illustrations, photographs, or graphs and charts. Why were they included? What other information is in them that isn’t in the text? Ask her how the author has organized the information: What are the different headings in the text? Why might the author have chosen to present the information in this way? These are all skills at which Read Smart can help your child gain proficiency.

Review any words that your child didn’t understand as she read, and how those words affected the ideas in the text. (Have a dictionary handy!)

Read together

You might want to see whether you can get your own copy of what your child is reading so that you are able to read together. Holding “family reading time” where you read and discuss what you’ve read can be a great way to get your child invested in what he’s reading, and it will enable you to talk as you go.

Reading smaller sections, a page, or a paragraph, allows you to monitor your child’s progress, and it allows him to do the same. He’s less likely to get frustrated if he reads a couple of paragraphs or a page and then stops to review with you any content that he’s unclear on than if he were to read an entire chapter of his novel or social studies or science textbook and realize that he’s not understood most of it.

You can also encourage him to make notes or a list of words and ideas he’s unclear on as he reads that you can review together. Also encourage him to write questions that occur to him as he’s reading. You can talk through possible answers together, looking to the text for support. If he’s reading a piece of nonfiction, you can look at another book you may have at home, or do an internet search to further investigate his question.

If you feel that your child is still struggling with reading comprehension, Read Smart wants to help your child succeed! We offer a free reading evaluation that can pinpoint your child’s reading abilities, as well as any specific areas that may be problematic. Contact us today by calling (918-559-7323) or filling out the contact form on our website.

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