How Parents Can Work on Reading Comprehension with their Child

By Eileen Huntington

Have you noticed that your child is capable of reading, but has trouble recalling what he or she reads, even immediately thereafter? "A few of the basics of good reading are strong decoding ability, recognition of high-frequency and irregular words, and good comprehension," says Eileen Huntington, co-founder and CEO of Huntington Learning Center. "Without these building blocks, a child will never achieve reading fluency and will likely always struggle with reading." Luckily, Huntington says there are a number of things parents can do to help their children better comprehend what they read. Here are several tips:

Teach your child to question. If your child reads something and doesn't understand it, encourage him or her to think about why. What part is confusing? How can he or she clarify that part? Does re-reading help? Talking through it aloud? Is there information missing that would help him or her understand better?

Use visuals to understand the story. After a chapter in a story, have your child write down three things that happened and the effect or consequence resulting from them. Use flash cards to chart sequences of events—what happened first? And after that? Have your child identify the beginning, middle and ending of a story.

Help your child relate the story to him or herself. Ask your child what he or she thinks about a character's behavior. Has your child ever felt the same way the character feels? How is a situation in the story similar to (or different than) a situation in your child's own life?

Summarize often. Whether reading a textbook or a story, have your child periodically summarize what he or she reads. What's the general idea of the passage? What was the main point or idea of the chapter he or she just read? How would he or she explain it in a few sentences to someone who is unfamiliar with the story?

You can reinforce the comprehension strategies that are taught in the classroom by practicing them with your child at home. "The important thing is to teach your child to think while he or she is reading and to recognize when something doesn't make sense," says Huntington. "Reading comprehension is one of the keys to becoming a good student and will play a significant role throughout the rest of your child's life."