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How Can I Tell If My Child Understands What She Reads?

By Margie B. Gillis, EdD

Question: My 9-year-old daughter struggles with reading, but she’s no longer reading aloud with me. How can I tell if she understands what she reads?

Answer:

This is such an important question. The ultimate goal of reading is to make meaning of what’s written. That requires lots of practice.

Without being involved in some way with your child’s reading, it will be hard for you to know how much she understands. But there are ways you can be involved without her reading aloud to you.

Reading comprehension is a process. It requires a great deal of mental energy because it involves so many things. First, readers need to pull information out of the text. Then, while they’re reading, they need to put that information together so it makes sense.

Some texts are easier to understand than others. Some are well written and others aren’t. Stories are often easier to follow because there’s a structure that organizes the information.

Nonfiction can be very interesting. But there’s a lot of information to take in, and much of it might be unfamiliar. Also, nonfiction can be organized and structured in different ways. So it’s not as predictable as stories.

Reading comprehension is different from listening comprehension. Let’s say your child is struggling because she has trouble with decoding, or sounding out words. Her energy will be taken up trying to figure out how to read the words. That may be why she doesn’t want to read the text to you.

One way to work around that and still get an idea of her comprehension is to read silently, but together. Read the same material, stopping periodically. It could be after a paragraph, a passage, or a chapter. Then ask her questions about what you’ve both read.

If she won’t do that either, don’t give up entirely on spending time together reading. If she’ll let you, read aloud to her. You’ll only find out about her listening comprehension. But at least you’ll be able to see what she’s getting out of the text.

When she’s reading to herself, encourage her to tell you about what she’s reading and to share her thoughts. After all, that’s what comprehension is all about—thinking about and discussing what we read.


Want more information and ways to help your child with reading challenges? 

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