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How to improve reading comprehension skills

Learning how to read is a very intricate mental process for young and growing minds. Even adults can struggle with maintaining high reading comprehension and take for granted this essential ability. When it comes to teaching children how to read, it requires patience, a lot of repetition, and a lot of active monitoring of your child’s reading comprehension skills. The following are several reading comprehension tips for adults to help their children grow and monitor their reading. These suggestions will help in making your reading skills more interactive and automatic, ultimately guiding your child towards higher reading comprehension and fluidity.

1. Read Often, Read Aloud

When teaching a child to read, one of the most important things is guided exposure to a variety of texts. It is great to try to read with your child every night, but it’s also important to recognize that we are surrounded by words on a daily basis. Computer screens, magazines, even names of stores and street signs demonstrate the active presence of reading in our everyday lives. Always take the time to sit with your child and guide the reading process. If he or she is at the age or ability to recognize sight words and begin to practice reading, encourage him or her to take turns reading aloud along with you. This will allow you the ability to actively gauge how your child processes words and information. Constant exposure to reading will afford your child continued practice and opportunities to improve fluidity.

2. Preview Material / Use Text Structures

Each text is designed with a particular structure in mind. Whether it’s an illustrated children’s book, a newspaper article, or a webpage, common structures exist in texts to help facilitate comprehension. Always have your child look at the title, subtitles, accompanying pictures, and other structural components to preview the main content of the text. It’s also important to make inferences and predict based on these structural components what the primary text might be about. These inferences can then be used to regulate comprehension, monitor internalization of information, and improve memory while reading.

3. Vocabulary Monitoring

Vocabulary building is a constant process for a new or struggling reader. Many words can be recognized by sight, but if a child struggles with reading words, his or her fluidity in the reading process is interrupted and full comprehension cannot be attained. While reading aloud, note the words that your child struggles with reading or pronouncing. Are there patterns in sounds and letter combinations in these words? Is it a word that your child normally would not see on a daily basis? Make a list of words that your child struggles with in addition to words with similar phonetic or spelling patterns. Use labeled picture flashcards as an additional tool to help your child associate the isolated words with their meanings.

4. Stop and Summarize, Predict

Just like previewing the material, when reading a particular text, it is important to take pauses to stop and summarize. If reading a story, you may want to ask your child what happened on the previous page or even earlier in the plot. You can even ask your child to make a guess about what will happen next. Being able to quickly summarize or make relevant, text-informed predictions is an accurate indication of fluid reading comprehension.

5. Reflect / Evaluate Purpose

After reading an entire text, it is important to interact with the material one last time as a marker of comprehension. You can ask your child to point out the three most important events or pieces of information from the beginning, middle, and end of the text. As a means of inviting your child to express opinion, you can have him or her tell you what he or she liked best or didn’t like about the story. You can even reflect upon what specific lesson or moral the text is trying to present. Taking the time to reflect about how the text functions as a whole and monitor your child’s reaction to it is also an excellent marker of reading comprehension.

6. Encourage Growth

When teaching a new or struggling reader to develop his or her reading comprehension skills, it’s important to understand that reading is a complicated process and not just a matter of making it from start to finish. Provide plenty of opportunities for your child to be exposed to and interact with a variety of text types, facilitated by your guidance and the aforementioned reading comprehension tips. Continue to build interactive reading habits as a routine, and the process will become more automatic for your child.

As a final note, do recognize that when a child has mastered a text, he or she may want to reread it because of its familiarity and his or her pride in be able to understand it completely. Rereading is a wonderful way to encourage and confirm reading comprehension. However, it is also important that as our children grow in their reading capacity that we continue to present them with texts that are appropriate for their reading level but that also challenge them to refine their skills and become better independent readers.

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