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Instructional strategies

6 Ways to Improve Reading Comprehension

By Ginny Osewalt

235Found this helpful

Good readers are active readers. When your child has a hard time understanding what she reads, instruction can help. Here are some strategies to try.

235Found this helpful
Close up of a young boy drawing a butterfly and bug in a notebook
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Make connections.

Connecting what your child already knows while she reads sharpens her focus and deepens understanding. Show her how to make connections by sharing your own connections as you read aloud. Maybe the book mentions places you’ve been together on vacation. Talk about your memories of those places. Invite your child to have a turn. Remind your child that good readers make all kinds of connections as they read.

Mother asking questions while reading with her daughter
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Ask questions.

Asking questions will make your child want to look for clues in the text. Pose questions that will spark your child’s curiosity as you read aloud. Frequently ask her, “What are you wondering?” Jot down those “wonderings” and then see how they turn out. Remind your child that good readers challenge what they’re reading by asking questions.

Close up of a child concentrating on a drawing
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Create “mind movies.”

Creating visual images brings the text alive. These “mind movies” make the story more memorable. You can help your child do this by reading aloud and describing the pictures you’re seeing in your own imagination. Use all five senses and emotions. Invite your child to share her “mind movies.” Notice how they’re different from yours. You might even ask your child to draw what’s in her imagination.

A family reading the newspaper together and discussing
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Make inferences.

We “infer” by combining what we already know with clues from a story. For example, when we read, “Her eyes were red and her nose was runny,” we can infer that she has a cold or allergies. You can help your child with this reading skill by predicting what might happen in the story as you read aloud. Then invite your child to do the same.

Teen boy lying on his bed looking at his iphone
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Figure out what’s important.

Determining what’s important is central to reading. When you read a story with your child, you might download a “story element” organizer. You can use it to keep track of the main characters, where the story is taking place, and the problem and solution of the story. Nonfiction texts look different from fiction. They’re organized with features like the table of contents, headings, bold print, photos and the index.

Brother and sister reading on a tablet with their grandfather asking questions
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Monitor comprehension.

Readers who monitor their own reading use strategies to help them when they don’t understand something. Teach your child how to “click and clunk.” Read together and ask her to hold up one finger when the reading is making sense (click) and two fingers when meaning breaks down (clunk). To repair the “clunks,” use these “fix-up” strategies:

  • Re-read.
  • Read on—now does it make sense?
  • Read out loud.
  • Read more slowly.
  • Look at illustrations.
  • Identify confusing words.

Start the slideshow again

7 Ways to Improve Reading Fluency

Reading fluency is the ability to read quickly, accurately and with the right expression. Fluent readers understand what they read. Here are some strategies that can help your child become a better reader.

7 Ways to Improve Vocabulary

There’s a strong link between understanding words and understanding what you read. Children with learning and attention issues do better when they spend more time learning words. Here are some teaching methods to improve your child’s vocabulary.

About the Author

Ginny Osewalt

Ginny Osewalt

Ginny Osewalt is a public school teacher in New Jersey, where she is certified both in elementary education and in special education.

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