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5 Ways To Help Students Struggling With Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension isn’t about being able to string words together, it’s about deriving meaning from the text. In other words, just because a child can read a text doesn’t mean they truly understand it.

It’s the difference between reading Shakespeare and getting Shakespeare.

But the implications go far beyond appreciating literature. Comprehension is about reading between the lines, understanding vocabulary and figurative language, inferencing, verbal reasoning, grammatical development, and oral expression. It’s about being able to understand the reason something has been written, or what the stance of an author is on a particular subject. 

In this day and age, the ability to comprehend text is more important than ever. Being able to look beyond the written words of a text can, for example, help a reader differentiate between fake news, biased news, and genuine news.

Catching a struggling reader early is relatively easy, but students who have trouble with comprehension may go under the radar and only be found when they fail standardized comprehension tests. But all hope is not lost. This post is going to give you five ways to support students who are struggling with reading comprehension.

1. Try different subjects

Sometimes all it takes to get a student to comprehend what they’re reading is to get them to read something they are genuinely interested in. Feel free to look beyond what is traditionally considered “school material”. It could be fiction, it could even be a comic book. The point is to see if they are really able to absorb the matter.

Ask your child to pick some reading material for themselves, and get involved with their reading. Younger students may also be open to reading aloud for you. Every now and then, under the guise of curiosity, interject a question that will ask them to think about the meaning of the text. This will give the student an opportunity to become “the explainer” and subtly ask them to practice comprehension.

2. Teach vocabulary

One of the most basic ways to make for a richer reading experience for your child is to bolster their vocabulary.

Get a word-of-the-day calendar, use flash cards, or anything else—there are dozens of ways to help improve a students vocabulary, more than we can cover in this post. A simple game that you can play almost anywhere is to say a simple definition of a word and ask your child to identify the word.

Additionally, a strong vocabulary enhances fluency. We’ve all experienced it— we come across a new word, and that interrupts our reading flow. This can be especially frustrating for a child who is already having trouble comprehending a text.

So the other side of teaching vocabulary is to frame these instances as positive. Assure your child that even you don’t know all the words. Encourage them to view these instances as an opportunity to learn a new word.

3. Oral essay questions

Older students may not be comfortable reading out loud for you, but there’s more than one way to get involved in their reading.

Get your child’s buy-in to do this exercise—it could be seen as an invasion of privacy if you just dip into their reading material, no matter how good your intentions, and that will be the end of the whole thing right there.

The point of getting into their reading is to pose essay type questions now and then. Dig into the “why” of something that happened, what does your child make of a certain event or certain action that a character took, what real-world parallels can they draw, and so on.

A word of caution, however: be sure never to give spoilers. Nothing is worse for a child reading a beloved book.

4. Urge note-taking

This is a practice that we use even as adults. Any time we see something interesting, we mark it. If we come across a passage or term we don’t understand, we highlight it so we can come back and look it up. We jot down points of interest that will help us summarize a text for a presentation. We are always taking notes, in some form or another.

Urge your child to take notes and make marks when they need to read for comprehension, no matter how trivial the text may seem. This will get them into the habit of looking out for and identifying pieces of text that could be important for its comprehension. There is no shame in writing in the margins, and in fact it’s a skill they will use more and more as they progress through life.

5. Summarizing

One the best—and simplest—ways to test comprehension is to ask your child to summarize a text.

Ask for a 1-page book report on whatever they are reading. It doesn’t even have to strictly be a book. But you’ll be able to judge if:

  • They can identify the main points of interest.
  • They can tell you what the text is about.
  • They can draw out the meaning or intent behind the text.

You can make it a fun experience with a little bit of gamification and some kind of reward mechanism. For example, 5 satisfactory summaries earns a special treat.

Final thoughts

As with any method to help a child, the main thing to remember is to be patient. Remind your child that struggling with reading comprehension is merely a facet of processing information, and not of intelligence. Like all subjects, any child can get better at it with practice.

The best thing you can do is try to bring the areas your child is struggling in into daily life. Take it “out of the classroom” and give it real world context. You can test comprehension on a movie, or an episode of a cartoon. If they are watching the half-time analysis of a basketball game, you can ask them to summarize the main points. Make it fun and relevant to your child and you will see them develop the skills they need to succeed in school.

How to strengthen parent-child communication-relationship?

Parenting is a tough job in and by itself. There is a long list of decisions that a parent has to make, never really knowing if the choice that they made is going to be the right one.  From ensuring that their kids get healthy food to eat, good friends to play with, a good education, the right career path, developing critical thinking skills, and so much more; parents need to think about everything. 

Many might agree that there has always been a generational gap between parents & their kids. This gap seems to have widened with the children in the 21st century. Kids nowadays might not be very open about things that bother them or be verbose of the peer pressures that they have to deal with because they might feel that they would not be understood or would be judged. To close this gap and to gain better understanding of what children have to deal with, parents need to develop a stronger relationship and a safe haven where kids feel they can talk about anything and everything. To be able to accomplish this there has to be good communication between parents & their children.

Understand how your child communicates

Knowing how your child communicates will help you strengthen your bond with them and encourage them to be open with you. Some kids are open while others a little bit more reserved. Taking the time to learning their style will help you bring the best out in them. Be mindful that not all communication is verbal and pay close attention to body language. Sometimes a cheerful child that seems quiet could have had a tough day at school and might just need a nudge to share it with you. 

Be a good listener 

Listening is so much more than just hearing what is being said; it is to understand the meaning behind the words. We have all been guilty of listening half-heartedly while trying to finish cooking dinner or while responding to a work email or taking care of the endless things that have to be taken care of. Give full attention to your child when he or she is talking about something. Make eye contact and let them know that what they are saying is important, that they are important.

Turn off the TV and any other distractions or interruptions as you intently listen to them and respond thoughtfully when they ask for your opinion. Things that seem trivial or silly to you might actually be challenging for them to process. So make sure you empathize without judging and look at it from their perspective. When your child feels like they can talk to you about anything and everything you have created a strong foundation of a loving relationship.

Narrate positive stories and personal experiences 

Children love to hear stories. Remember the times where we read bedtime stories to our kids when they were younger. It was a ritual that made them feel so special and loved. Depending on your kid’s age and maturity level, you choose the best stories for them.  As the kids get older let those stories evolve to you sharing your personal life experiences with them. Talk about yourself if you want them to talk about themselves. You don’t need to be perfect to inspire them. You just need to be real. As they start to realize that you have experienced a lot of what they are going through now, it creates this bond where they feel comfortable sharing and asking for opinion on things that matter most to them. 

Spend some time with them every day 

We all live in a busy world and finding time can seem difficult. Sometimes with both parents working different shifts it might even get trickier. Find time on a daily basis to intentionally spend with your kids. Little kids might want you to play with them. Remember it’s not what you want to do, its what they want you to do with them that matter. Develop a routine that works for your family. As kids get older they love to help. Let them contribute by helping you with chores like preparing dinner together or going shopping. Schedule some family time and plan a picnic or a vacation and create memories. To children love is often spelt as TIME.

Use the Whale-done approach

Everyone wants a perfect child. We use criticism and manipulation as tools to get them to doing what we think they should do which actually back fires in most cases. In his book “Whale done” Ken Blanchard talks about accentuating the positive and redirecting energy when mistakes happen. This approach helps build confidence & self esteem. Kids also need to know that we are their biggest cheerleaders at all times. They need to know that we have their back. It is important for them to celebrate their wins but also to know that making mistakes and failing is part of life and learning to handle failure is perhaps the most important lesson that can help them develop resilience. 

Help build confidence by strengthening learning

We all know that education provides the basic building block, which is the foundation to creating a successful future. Inculcate the love of learning in your child. Children tend to love what they understand and are comfortable with. Enrolling your child in online practice for Math and ELA can help them practice what they learn in school and become more comfortable with the subject material.  It helps them gain confidence in their own ability to perform, sharpens their skills, and creates a winning culture. Georgia Test Prep offers a wide range of practice for the students to enhance their performance and create great results.

Some parting thoughts

Make a lot of deposits in your child’s life. Give them all the tools necessary to succeed in life. Love them unconditionally. Make sure to tell them often that you believe that they are the most magical and wonderful beings in this world; that they are capable of accomplishing anything that they set their hearts to and that is exactly what they will go on to do!