Ways To Improve Reading Comprehension

For a child, reading proves to play a significant role in helping them understand and see the world from a different perspective since it can enrich their capability to understand the different things they encounter. With that said, reading alone isn't enough - they need to be able to understand the context of those texts. Generally speaking, reading comprehension is one of the biggest problems children encounter academically. For those children having difficulty with understanding, especially with understanding what they're reading, they may also have various issues with their academics - that goes beyond the fundamentals of reading and writing skills.

For instance, some children with learning disabilities can easily read the text out loud but often fail to understand the context of what they have read or at least remember what they read. Some of these children would read the text monotonously - they have no change of emotions and feelings and usually reads at the same pace. While it seems that they can read well, and there's no denying that their ability to read isn't impaired, they have problems interpreting what they read in their own words.

1What Schema Is

The schema theory tells us about how people are capable of developing knowledge structures, also known as schemas, all of which interconnect with each other. As people experience life, these schemas start to develop and adapt, as they collect new information and body of knowledge obtained through reading and experiencing life itself. As an example, for young children, their schema about a dog may include small details such as it being furry, white in color, and a fun companion. This schema will then expand, as these children get to experience and interact with different types of dogs in multiple settings. Then, those new experiences can connect with the existing schemas such as the variety of dog colors, the food they eat, types of dangerous dogs, dog shows, veterinarians, and even where dogs stay when their family goes out on holiday.

For those children who grow up to be good readers, they tend to automatically correlate everything they know with the new information they've read from a specific book or text. As soon as they read, a new schema appears to activate. Once that gets activated, it will wake up other schemas that have a direct impact on how the reader comprehends and responds to what they're reading. All schemas that are directly correlated to the text organization play a significant role in improving comprehension. For children to have a better understanding of what they're reading, they must have a good grasp of familiarity with the text organization.

2Your Child Is Making Connections

Making these connections to the text is one of the many ways we can help children comprehend what they're reading. The moment learners start to connect the text to themselves, along with other texts, and to things happening to their environment, they begin to develop a sense of focus. The children use everything they have learned and understood, thus improve their comprehension skills. As much as possible, child readers should always actively engage during their reading activities. It means that they interact and feel the emotions to what they're reading and not only reciting the words they see on the page.

According to studies, readers will be able to easily understand what they're reading when they actively use their knowledge and experience and relate it with the book they're reading. Whenever young readers have that capability to connect the book with their personal experience, they can easily make connections, extending whatever they've learned in the bigger world out there. This encourages children to think about more complicated topics that are beyond the walls of their school, home, and neighborhood.

3Predicting What Comes Next

Young readers utilize their schema simultaneously with the text, pictures, words, and other features to make word predictions. It is one of the most effective reading strategies. Simply said, this allows the children to make use of whatever information they have learned from the text, such as those coming from pictures, the book's title, chapter headings, and even diagrams, to help them anticipate the words and also the events that will happen in the book's story.

Being able to predict events and words is also a necessary step towards better reading comprehension skills. Surprisingly, children have wild imaginations that let them make accurate predictions on how the story will flow based on everything they have previously seen, heard, or read. This process will help children become actively engaged whenever they are reading. Children should have a chance to re-read certain parts or chapters of the book to help them with the recollection of the story parts and facts, such as the events and story characters, to have a better understanding of whether those predictions are accurate. Another tool that can also help improve a young reader's comprehension skills is through picture walks.

4Inferring Makes Reading Personal

For readers to create a conclusion, they need to make use of everything they know to assume something that they don't know about the story. As this happens, young readers start to learn how to read between the lines, allowing them to make their best guess, along with the picture cues provided. Those children that make use of assumptions take the cues and clues they have gathered from the text and connect it with their personal experience. It will help them to have an in-depth understanding of the context of the book, making it easier for the child to remember the said text easily. When we teach children how to make inferences and connect the text on a personal level, they'll start to show more pleasure when reading; in turn, it also allows them to practice critical thinking and to easily remember and use everything they've read into their lives.

Those who have proficient reading skills make use of the existing knowledge they have as an advantage. They also use the textual information they have gathered to make inferences, evaluate decisions, and even come up with their interpretation of the text. These inferences come in various forms, such as ideas, conclusions, and even story predictions.

To help test this idea, use magazine or book images, revealing only a part of the picture. Now, ask the children what the photo is all about, whether it's an advertisement or a story. On your end, you should start talking and giving them little cues, as if you were thinking out loud to help make the connection - "I think that this picture seems like...." Once done, the next activity for you and the children is for them to answer specific questions using a different picture; allow them to use their reasoning whenever they make inferences.

5Visualizing Improves Comprehension

Visualization is commonly known as one's ability to "think" about the pictures mentally. This way involves creating a visual image of something based on auditory cues or something that we've read. It is one of the many factors and techniques that makes reading comprehension achievable. With that said, it is safe to say that visualizing is one of those activities or tools that can further enhance one's reading comprehension skills.

Young learners tend to easily remember and understand whatever they're reading if they are actively using their words and connecting them with their visualizing skills. For us, adults, visualizing happens naturally, and children will also have this ability as soon as they intentionally practice reading with this skill. As said, young readers who visualize things while they're reading make reading more pleasurable for them and, at the same time, allows them to easily remember what they have read.

6Questioning Effectively

The more they read, children will start to become active learners - you'll know when they're starting to become active learners the moment that they start asking a lot of questions. Another method used is Socratic questioning, where learning comes by answering students' questions themselves. For reading groups, they can read a particular chapter or part of the book; for them to be able to understand the given material further, they'll ask each other questions. Teachers or parents can then utilize open-ended questions, rather than using closed-ended ones, as this can help them express their own opinions that they can use, along with some textual evidence based on the given material.

Young readers also probe for more to have a better grasp of understanding on the topic, as well as to clarify certain parts of the material. A perfect example would be, "What do you think was the author referring to in that line?" - this question alone lets children practice reading between the lines to help them fully understand the context of the material and to look for the answers they have in mind; on the other hand, you can also guide children with leading questions to bridge the gap and help them take the correct path towards finding the right ideas and answers. All of these are just some of the few methods on how parents and teachers can help improve their child's reading comprehension, as well as some communication techniques to keep the discussion going. Always remember that you must ask the right question, which will lead children to go through their books and reading materials efficiently, making them quickly understand what the reading material's content was.

7Determining Importance

As they practice their reading skills, children also develop an ability that lets them understand and see the important details, especially whenever they're reading a fiction material. Simply said, they start to pay attention to more crucial parts of the text. For instance, whenever we're reading a particular page from a book, we tend to remember the essential elements of the page automatically. The same thing goes for children who are proficient in reading; they hold on to that process as they continue practicing their reading skills. Information, facts, and other details are organized, making it easier to focus on the more significant ones.

This skill is vital for children and their reading comprehension skills, as this allows them to move from one text to another, making it easier to connect sentences and paragraphs and understand the sequence of the story. It's normal for young readers to think that everything written in the material is vital. Do not be discouraged - they are starting to learn new things, and at the same time, they are beginning to explore a world that's new to them. Our job is to make sure we teach the kids to differentiate the big ideas from the small ones by making them use their thinking and organizational skills and allowing them to use those facts and concentrate on them while still promoting fun and enhancing their creativity and imagination skills.

8Synthesizing Encourages Thinking

As they start to read, young learners will then make use of everything they know, along with the text cues, to stitch everything together and understand a new word even if it's the first time they've encountered it. Synthesize, from its prefix "syn," means to put together. During this process, we generate a list of the most significant points from the reading material, but we won't stop there and go beyond things that the author hasn't stated in the content. We generally concentrate on the new information we've learned from the material. The more we read, we soon realize that the way we process things in our mind changes, and whenever we finish reading, we can use our thinking and start learning new things using different techniques.

We don't only synthesize within a particular context and the same text, but it can also be applied when we're going over a series of various text cues. We take into consideration and use everything that we've learned from the previous research, put it together, combine it with the new sources, and come up with something based on the combination of everything we've read. We want our children to grow in a way that they do so based on everything that they've learned from new reading materials. For them to be able to do this, they need to learn how to synthesize.

9Summarizing During And After Reading

Whenever a child starts summarizing a book or a story, they use their own words and may even deliver it based on the essential facts they have read from the material. The act of summarizing is the ability for them to put together an entire story in their own words. When reading fiction, some of the things to be taken into consideration are the main elements of the story, such as the characters, their names, the story's setting, the overall plot, and most often, the summary's theme as well. When reading nonfiction, on the other hand, we gather all of the essential facts about the topic based on the material to provide the summary.

Proficient readers always summarize facts during and after reading. The reason why we summarize while we're reading is to make sure that we got all the essential information before we proceed to the next part of the topic. Most people do this without them knowing, especially when reading a material that is easy to understand, but the moment it gets complicated, we usually pause to summarize to make sure that we get everything right. For children, learning how to summarize can be challenging, and teaching it is tough. Always remember, when summarizing, make sure to concentrate on the essential aspects, but for the children, they can't differentiate what's important from what's not.

Contrary to popular belief, reading comprehension skills isn't just for academic purposes but is generally used in life. While reading comprehension can help the child become successful and get better grades in school, this can also be applied once they are already in the workplace. By learning what the excellent reading strategies are and implementing them to our children, we can support them with early interventions, especially to those who struggle with the entire concept of understanding the material presented to them.

Aside from that, honing comprehension skills can also play a crucial role in the child's success, as it is a fundamental skill towards language fluency. Reading comprehension is and will always be a part of your child's schooling regardless of the subject, and being able to hone these skills can help them advance and excel in school. Developing strong reading comprehension skills is a must for your child to excel in their SATs and middle school, high school, and college placement testing.

Nicole Ross

Nicole S. Ross is passionate about using stories in early childhood education. She wrote our Alphabet Book Series to help children fall in love with reading while learning the alphabet.