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

By Margie B. Gillis, EdD
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Q

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

A

This is such an important question. The ultimate goal of reading is to make meaning of the text, and 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 comprehends. There are ways you can be involved, however, 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, the reader needs to pull information out of the text. Then, while she’s reading, she needs to put that information together so it makes sense.

Some texts are easier to comprehend than others. Some are well written and others are not. Stories are often easier to follow because there’s a predictable 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. For example, if your child is struggling because she has difficulty with decoding, her energy will be consumed as she tries 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 gauge her comprehension is to read silently, but together. Sit with your daughter and read the same material. Periodically stop. 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 be able to assess her listening comprehension. But at least you’ll be able to see what she’s getting out of the text.

When she’s reading a text 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 and discussing what we read.


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

About the Author

About the Author

Margie B. Gillis, EdD 

is the founder and president of Literacy How, which provides professional development for teachers on research-based reading practices in the classroom.

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