Once your kids learn how to read, you want to make sure that they aren’t just reading the words, but that they actually understand what’s happening in the story. This is called reading comprehension. If your kids can read every single word but never remember any of the plot or can’t tell you what they read, does it even matter that they can read the words? This is a common struggle, and I’ve got five tips to help you improve your kids’ reading comprehension (spoiler alert: none of them involve you giving them a worksheet that asks them to answer specific, detailed questions from the story ;)
How do you help your kids improve reading comprehension?
Talk about books
Ask your kids questions. Simple things like:
- What was your favorite part of the story?
- What was the main character like?
- Did anything scary/surprising/exciting happen?
- Did they ever find the treasure?
Encourage your child to make connections to the story.
- How are you and the main character alike or different?
- How do people in that time period dress compared to now?
- What’s the weather like there compared to where we live?
Re-reading a story can help improve comprehension, because your kids are going to notice things the second time around that they didn’t notice the first time.
When kids retell a story, or even a part of a story, they are cementing that into their brain. Don’t worry about your kids remembering all the details, but can they tell you the main parts of a story? If not, practice doing this together through story baskets, puppets, acting the story out, or even take turns retelling the story (you tell one part, I tell the next).
When I was in school (and even when I was teaching), the typical way to assess if a child understood the story was to ask a bunch of multiple choice questions about the details of the book. You probably know what I’m talking about. Questions like, “Where did Billy go after he went to the store?” or “What city did Susie visit?”
Let’s be honest here: this does not really help your child comprehend the main ideas, themes, and plot of the story. Sometimes this kind of information can be important if your child is reading a non-fiction story about a specific event, but remembering tiny details of historical events or people isn’t always important either!
We want our kids to remember the overall story. We want them to connect to the story, get the main idea, and understand the overall plot. This means that if you’re asking them to remember all the details, they probably are not going to pay attention to the big picture.
These Response Journals can work with any book and are adapted to different reading levels. They don’t focus on those tiny details, but instead they help your child comprehend the big ideas.