5 Essential Skills Needed for Reading Comprehension

By Emily Lapkin

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Beginning around third or fourth grade, your child is expected to be able to read a passage of text, understand it and answer questions about it. Here are the five skills needed for reading comprehension.

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Connecting Letters and Sounds

Once your child grasps the connection between letters (or groups of letters) and the sounds they typically make (phonics), he’ll be able to “sound out” words.

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Decoding the Text

The process of sounding out words is also known as decoding. As decoding becomes faster and more automatic, your child can shift his focus from sounding out words individually to understanding the meaning of what he’s reading.

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Recognizing Words

The ability to read whole words by sight without sounding them out is called “word recognition.” This speeds up the rate at which your child can read and understand a passage of text. This can be a challenging step for kids with dyslexia. Average readers need to see a word four to 14 times before it becomes a “sight word.” Students with dyslexia may need to see it up to 40 times.

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Reading Fluently

Once your child can recognize most words by sight and quickly sound out any unfamiliar words, he can be called a “fluent” reader. Fluent readers read smoothly at a good pace. And they use the proper tone in their voice when reading aloud. Fluency is essential for good reading comprehension.

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Understanding the Text

Fluent readers can remember what they’ve just read and relate the new material to what they already know. They can remember details and summarize what they understood from a passage. Kids with dyslexia might have a harder time remembering what they’ve read. This makes it tougher for them to understand and apply their new knowledge to what they’ve already learned. Find out what kinds of strategies can improve reading fluency.

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About the Author

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Bob Cunningham, Ed.M., serves as advisor-in-residence on learning and attention issues for Understood.

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