13 September, 2018

Help! How can my child improve their Reading Comprehension?

Reading is the process of decoding the words that are presented in front of us.

Comprehension is the next step and is all about making meaning of what we are reading.

Good comprehension is an important life skill. At school, children will need to apply this skill across all subject areas. As children progress through school, even “good” readers can have difficulty with comprehension. This is because comprehension is more than just reading words correctly, it is a deeper understanding of both the meaning of individual words, and their meaning in the context they are used. Children are expected to understand what they have read and to use that information in a certain way.  

What makes children ‘good readers’?

One of the most important characteristics of good readers is that they continually ask ‘Does what I am reading make sense?’ When it doesn’t make sense, they reread it again, looking for clues to help them understand the meaning. Children who struggle with comprehension will often read the words well but they miss the meaning of what they read. Children should be encouraged to reread text if they don’t understand it. Reading is not all about speed and getting all the words right.


At the earliest stage, children may use visual clues like pictures to help them garner meaning from text. As they progress and their vocabulary increases they begin to assign meaning to words and put words in a more meaningful context.

Children will make use of comprehension strategies before, during and after reading to build understanding. They may use these strategies at anytime and in any order.

These strategies include:

  • Making Connections – comparing text to something in their own lives, another text they have read or something occuring in the world around them.
  • Predicting – predict what will happen next using their own experience or references in the text.
  • Questioning – asking questions to clarify meaning.
  • Monitoring – if something doesn’t make sense, stop and reread.
  • Visualising – picturing what is being read in their minds.
  • Summarising – noticing the important information in texts and describing it in their own words.

Here are some ways in which you can help your child with their comprehension skills at home:

  • Asking your child to explain the text to you using their own words.
  • Ask your child questions about the text, “What do you think will happen next?”, “How do you think the character feels?”, “Why do you think such and such happened?”
  • Give them time! Wait for your child to process the information, make connections and think of an answer, it might take them longer than you would to answer.  
  • Encourage your child to pay attention while reading and ask for clarification if there are words they don’t understand.
  • Allow time for your child to ask questions. They will do this to help them develop more understanding and shows they are thinking about what they are reading.

Learn Primary has a range of comprehension lessons for children to practise their comprehension skills. You can also look at the Parent Zones in these lessons for more tips about helping your child at home.

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