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Why Do Some Kids Have Trouble Understanding or Remembering What They Read?

By Ginny Osewalt

This article is part of

Take N.O.T.E.

A simple, step-by-step tool to help you figure out if the struggles you’re seeing might be signs of a learning and thinking difference

Question: My child and I read and re-read the same paragraph, and he still doesn’t seem to “get” it. Why does my son have so much trouble understanding what he reads?

Answer:

I understand your frustration—you’ve put a lot of time and effort into your child’s learning without seeing much improvement. You’ve already accomplished a great deal just by showing your child how much you care.

Kids need several skills to grasp the meaning of a sentence or paragraph. Here are some reasons kids can have a tough time understanding and remembering what they read.

Reading speed: Does your child read slowly? It can be hard for kids to grasp the meaning of a sentence if they’re struggling to sound out each word. The longer it takes to get through a sentence or paragraph, the harder it can be to “hold on to” and think about the meaning of the text.

Vocabulary: Does your child understand most of the words in the text? Think of each paragraph as a house and each word as a wooden board. It’s hard for the house to feel sturdy if there are big holes in the floors or walls.

Interest: Is your child bored by the topic? It’s hard for kids to pay attention if they’re easily distracted. Does your child get to choose what to read? See if the teacher offers choices. You can also try highlighting important information and other ways to help your child focus.

Stress and anxiety: Struggling readers may start to develop homework anxiety. This can be a vicious cycle. Worrying that you won’t understand the reading can make it harder to concentrate and absorb the material. Taking “ brain breaks” can make homework less frustrating. You can also explore meditation apps that can help kids cope with stress and “quiet the mind.”

Any of the above can affect kids’ ability to understand what they’re reading. These are barriers that can be removed.

There are other ways to help your child build comprehension skills, too. I often tell my students that “reading is thinking.” This helps my students understand that good readers are active readers. It gives them permission to wonder things like, Why is that character feeling this way? What will he do next?

You can help your child become a more active reader. Asking questions and using tools like graphic organizers can help kids make connections between what they’re reading and what they’re thinking.

Active readers also keep track of how well they understand what they’re reading. Your child can do this by re-reading confusing portions of the text and looking for context clues around a sentence or phrase. For example, pictures or the words in nearby sentences can help kids understand the meaning of the words.

Keep encouraging your child, and take notes on what you’re seeing. You can also send an email to get the teacher’s take on your child’s trouble with reading.

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Share Why Do Some Kids Have Trouble Understanding or Remembering What They Read?

  • Facebook
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  • Pinterest
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  • Text Message
  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom