Once a child understands the basics of reading with phonics the focus of their reading instruction shifts to reading comprehension. To read well a child must have excellent reading comprehension skills. Reading comprehension consists of two main components:
- Reading fluency and word recognition skills. This is your child’s ability to easily and effectively read printed words.
- Word comprehension ability. The greater your child’s vocabulary and ability to recognize and understand the words they read contribute greatly to their reading comprehension skills.
There are many factors that contribute to the development of both of these skills. One of the most important factors, however, is the home learning environment and parental support of reading activities.
Studies have shown that the development of early literacy skills in children is related to parental involvement of teaching children reading and writing. These early literacy skills directly predicted word reading at the end of grade 1. Word reading at the end of grade 1 predicted reading comprehension in grade 3.
In addition to parental involvement, the home environment is the strongest predictor of children’s language and early literacy skills. A responsive and supportive home environment is considered to have the greatest impact on children’s learning abilities.
How to improve reading comprehension
Reading comprehension involves a shift of focus for the reader. Poor readers focus on word recognition. Good readers understand the words and can focus on reading comprehension. There are several techniques you can use to help your child shift their focus and improve their reading comprehension.
It is important that the reading material you provide for your child is appropriate for their reading level. Reading material should progress naturally with their abilities, but not be so difficult that they become discouraged, frustrated, and avoid reading altogether.
Reviewing material regularly is also important. Reviewing and re-reading past material helps to improve “reading fluency”. Reading fluency is the ability to read quickly and smoothly. This will help your child read faster as well as gain confidence in their reading ability.
Vocabulary can be enhanced through active comprehension strategies. This can be accomplished by discussing with your child about what he or she is reading. Have them summarize the story for you. Also, ask questions such as what, when, where, why, and how.
When working on reading comprehension it is important to have patience. Never force your child or make the learning experience a negative one. It takes time to build reading skills — don’t expect quick results.
As with anything, one of the most important contributing factors to reading comprehension is practice. The more your child reads the more their reading skills will improve.
Finally, one more factor that can help your child improve their reading comprehension is to read to them regularly — ideally every day. If you don’t already read to them before bed consider adding this to your routine. After reading to them discuss the story with them and help them understand some of the more subtle points. When choosing books to read to your child choose books that introduce new vocabulary and new ideas. These can both be discussed with your child to expand their knowledge.
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