How to Teach Reading Skills
Reading comprehension is the ultimate goal when teaching your child to read. After all, when a child struggles with comprehension, reading can be a miserable chore. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could find some easy-to-follow ideas to help you nurture this ability?
Good news! There are many different ways to help develop your child’s reading comprehension!
In this article, you’ll discover why reading comprehension is so important, explore strategies for developing this skill, and find out how we teach reading comprehension in the All About Reading program.
The delight of reading awaits your child!
What Is Reading Comprehension?
Reading comprehension is the ability to fully understand what is being read.
A person with great reading comprehension can visualize, question, and interpret what they are reading, and they can think about their own feelings and opinions while reading text. The comprehension process is mostly unconscious—it happens without our active involvement or awareness.
There are some prerequisites for good reading comprehension. If any of these skills are lacking, comprehension will be lacking as well:
- Decoding skills
- Background knowledge
But even when these foundational skills are present, reading comprehension is not necessarily automatic. Some important strategies may still be required.
What Reading Comprehension Strategies Are Helpful?
Good readers use many different strategies. Some strategies are used at a conscious level, while others are employed unconsciously. Depending on the purpose for reading and the difficulty of the text, effective strategies may include those listed in the chart below.
(You can download a printable Reading Comprehension Strategies Poster to hang on your fridge or classroom wall.)
But as helpful as these strategies can be, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
3 Things NOT to Do When Teaching Comprehension
While it is important to teach comprehension strategies to your student, it’s also important to realize that these strategies are tools and not the main goal. It’s imperative that you avoid focusing too much on individual comprehension strategies.
- Don’t assume that your child is comprehending just because she can decode all the words. Make sure that she understands what she is reading and isn’t just “word calling.”
- Don’t confuse comprehension with being able to answer literal questions. When working with beginning readers, it is sometimes helpful to ask a literal question such as “what did Jack buy at the store?” but be sure to move on from shallow questions. Focusing on literal questions not only bores your student, but also discourages in-depth interactions with the text.
- Don’t spend too much time teaching a single comprehension strategy. Good readers use many different strategies, often simultaneously. Over-emphasizing a single strategy will make reading harder than it needs to be. For example, when students are constantly asked to compare and contrast, meaning can be lost (as well as motivation for reading). More time should be spent reading interesting books than working on comprehension strategies.
Background Information Is Crucial for Reading Comprehension
In order to make sense of what you read, you need to have background knowledge. Before a child can understand the short story “Pirate Food,” for example, it is important that she have some familiarity with different foods and pirate dialects.
Reading aloud to your child is one of the best ways to help develop background knowledge. Reading a wide variety of books helps build a storehouse of knowledge of places, events, emotions, vocabulary, and language structure. Other methods of building background knowledge include travel, hands-on activities, workshops, and discussions. Your child will later draw upon this information when she is reading independently.
Exposure to a wide variety of books and experiences help your child distinguish reality from fantasy, recognize cause-and-effect, understand character motivation, and make predictions about what she is reading.
How Does All About Reading Teach Comprehension?
In the All About Reading program, we work on reading comprehension from the very first story your child reads, which is in Level 1, Lesson 3. The story contains only words that have already been taught, using just eight letters (M, S, P, A, N, T, B, and J). Would you like to see how we do it?
Download the lesson and story from Level 1, Lesson 3, and then follow along as we demonstrate this first reading lesson in action.
As you watch the video, notice that even though there are only 20 words in this first story, Linda is already helping her student work on comprehension through the following:
- expressive reading
- introducing new vocabulary
- activating prior knowledge
- modeling comprehension strategies
- making predictions
Every story lesson in the All About Reading program focuses on reading comprehension. A wide variety of methods are used, including graphic organizers, discussing literary devices, providing background information, and relating stories to the child’s own life. Students learn that reading is much more than just decoding the words—it is about engaging in a conversation with the text.
To see an example of how we teach reading comprehension in the higher levels of All About Reading, download this story lesson from All About Reading Level 4, Lesson 49.
The Bottom Line on Improving Reading Comprehension
When it comes to improving your child’s reading comprehension, here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- Build a foundation for reading comprehension with decoding skills, fluency, vocabulary, and background knowledge.
- Spend more time reading interesting books than on teaching comprehension strategies.
- Help build your child’s background knowledge with hands-on activities, workshops, discussions, and exposure to a wide variety of books and experiences.
The All About Reading program walks you and your child through all the steps to help your child achieve reading comprehension. The program is multisensory, motivating, and complete, with everything you need to raise a strong reader. And if you ever need a helping hand, we’re here for you.
What’s your take on teaching reading comprehension? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!