Teach Your Child Reading Comprehension – Here’s How

mother reading a book


A child’s reading comprehension starts early and it starts with pictures. We “read” stories to our babies, but of course not a lot of “comprehension” is going on. Our babies may not understand the storylines, characters, or dialogue, but they are learning inflection from our voices and they’re developing an appreciation for art.

A baby’s “story time” is really about introducing her to pictures and feelings that come while looking at those pictures. They coo over bright-colored animals and enjoy touching the fabrics of the books. They hear the joy in our voices when we read to them, and they feel it. They look for clues in pictures to understand what’s going on. The love of reading begins.

But comprehension, however, does not. By definition, comprehension means understanding and interpreting what is read. It means drawing conclusions about something you have read. What characters were funny? Why were they funny? What is the climax of the story? What, in the story, was important?

Children learn at all different levels and times. Some can speed-read and understand every word, while others take their time and really absorb the words they’re reading. One of the best things we can do as parents — even in the busyness of our lives when we might feel tempted to rush through the bedtime routine and just get them to sleep — is to read slowly and meticulously. Articulate words carefully, pause on the more difficult words, and ask them questions about what’s happening in the book along the way.

This is where reading comprehension begins. Children learn to savor words and ideas when parents read to them slowly. When they’re young, children enjoy the expression in their parents’ voices. They love when we get excited by what the characters in the book are doing. They love when we laugh and when we pretend to be sad when the characters in the book are sad. They learn to appreciation the story.

As they get older, that appreciation grows and we can help them along in their journey toward appreciating books to their fullest by spending the time teaching them now to read slowly and deliberately.

I think it’s best to talk with children about the books they’re reading, no matter how young or old they are and whether or not they’re reading alone or you’re reading with or to them.

Ask them to tell you what the story is about, who their favorite character is, where the setting takes place, and what the most interesting part of the book is. Make sure they’re reading about subjects they love, whether it’s nonfiction book about sharks, a fantasy about fairies, or a chapter book about life at school.

You’ll be surprised: by the end of second grade, your child will be comprehending chapter books and you won’t believe just how much fun it is to share your love of reading with them.


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