Improve Reading Comprehension

How to improve reading comprehension

How Having Your Child Draw Pictures Helps Them Learn to Read

Mom of 5th grader gets advice from Dr. Linda about improving her son’s reading comprehension.

Dear Dr. Linda,
My 5th grader was diagnosed with a reading problem in first grade. He’s had extra reading help since then. They take him out of class for instruction. But he’s always complained that he’s missing things in school and doesn’t feel he needs the reading class. I’ve never seen a problem. He seems to read fine when he read to me, but his teachers tell me that his reading comprehension is poor. So I haven’t argued with his teachers. However, nothing has improved. In fact, after his last review, his reading comprehension scores were worse. What do I do? Do I leave him in the reading class? Jen

Dear Jen,
I can’t answer your question about whether to leave him in the reading class or not. I would discuss this with his teacher. However, I can give you some suggestions for improving your son’s reading comprehension.
It sounds like your son can read words but doesn’t understand what he’s reading. A child’s reading comprehension may be poor for many reasons.

How to Improve Reading Comprehension

Your son may have difficulty visualizing a picture in his head of what he’s reading. He simply reads words. Have him stop after a sentence or a paragraph to draw a picture or a diagram or write a little story about what he just read. This will help him start to understand what he’s reading.

Another reason he may not be comprehending is lack of interest. Because he may not be interested in the story, he doesn’t become engaged. He’s only reading because he has to. To help him become more engaged have him read a few pages. Then you read the same pages and have him test you. It’s amazing how engaged he’ll become.

Ask him if you can look back for the answers. I’ve found that most of the children say, “No, you can’t look back.” By doing this, he’s not just following what you’ve told him to do, but he now has the power. This not only helps with comprehension but also with writing and self-esteem.

A third reason many children have difficulty with comprehension is their lack of skill in reading silently. Children begin reading by reading aloud. Eventually they read to themselves, but many of them haven’t learned how to visualize what they’re reading.

They read as if they’re reading a word list. To help him, tell him to subvocalize. This means actually moving his lips as if he’s still reading aloud.

Is the Problem ADHD?

Keep in mind, however, that your son may not have a reading comprehension problem at all. He may have an attentional issue. This doesn’t mean he has ADHD. If he doesn’t have an attentional issue in anything other than reading, then he probably isn’t interested in what he’s reading. Or perhaps he just doesn’t like reading.

Then his lack of focus becomes a reading comprehension issue. Many children and adults don’t know what they’re reading because they don’t stay focused due to disinterest. Their mind wanders off.

To improve reading comprehension and to help him pay attention have him fill in answers to the five W’s as he reads: Who? Where? When? Why? What? Make it fun by highlighting the “who” in blue, the “where” in yellow, the “when” in orange, the “why” in pink and the “what” in green. If he has to write a summary of what he’s read, he has his information right there.

Finally, be careful not to put him in front of a computer or workbook in which he has to read a passage and then answer multiple questions. These exercises test his comprehension but don’t teach him how to comprehend.

Click here to find more suggestions for reading comprehension.

Have fun reading together,
Dr. Linda Silbert

P.S. When your son goes into 6th grade next year, he’ll find my Improve Your Reading Skills Handbook helpful for improving comprehension.


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