10 Simple Reading Comprehension Strategies for Elementary School Children
Recently there has been a wave of panic among parents and teachers as a result of
the falling standards of literacy in schools, and this has been brought to bear
in a number of government-led reports and investigations in the English speaking
world. One of the principal concerns is the abysmal standard of reading comprehension
among elementary school children.
This article outlines ten simple and easy-to-implement reading comprehension activities
for parents of elementary-level students.
1. Ask simple questions while you read with or to your child
Be sure to ask your child questions about what has happened in a passage of the
storybook you are reading, such as “What do you think the rabbit will do now?” or
“Why do you think the little boy went inside the house?” This is a great way to
check that your child is staying focussed on the story, and is aware of what is
2. Use prediction strategies
Ask your child what she thinks is going to happen next in the story. You can do
this at the end of each page, or at the end of a chapter for older readers.
3. Encourage your child to relate what is happening in the story to his own life
This is a good way to enable your child to relate to the events of the story, and
a powerful strategy for boosting reading comprehension, as we are always more stimulated
when we are affected personally. If, for example, there is a pet in the story, you
can ask “You have a pet as well, don’t you. What’s his name? What type of animal
4. Use the ‘retelling strategy’
Ask your child to tell you what has happened in the story. This can be either verbal
or written, and can be done either at the end of the story or at the end of each
5. Choose reading materials that you know your child will be interested in
for instance, your child has shown an interest in tractors or cars, try reading
a storybook that features these vehicles.
6. Use contextual clues to help your child
If your child is having problems deciphering
the meaning of certain words, use contextual clues within the story to help. This
will teach your child a valuable skill, while allowing her to explore new boundaries
in a comfortable and safe environment.
7. Adopt the ‘Main Idea’ reading comprehension strategy
Often a new storybook can seem overwhelming to a young reader, as there are so many
new concepts, themes, words and situations to digest. It is always a good idea to
encourage your child to see the bigger picture when you read to him, as this will
give him a framework to pin the rest of the story to.
8. Alternate reading hard and easy texts with your child
Similarly, re-read known and loved stories as well as new books each day. The new
books will challenge her, while re-reading the old stories will nurture her reading
confidence and provide a safety blanket of familiarity.
9. Read aloud to your child
Language means more to young children when they hear it than when they read it.
Listening to a story that is being read to them enables children to understand how
intonation and patterns of language can affect the meaning of a story. It also gives
them access to a world that only more adept readers would be able to otherwise enjoy.
10. Read with your child every day
This is possibly the most important point of all. Set aside a regular time each
day to read with your child. It doesn’t have to be for more than 15 minutes, but
the benefits from setting aside a bit of time to read with your little one can be
amazing. Create a cosy nook on the couch, bring along a few loved toys, cuddle up
with a favourite book and, most importantly, have some fun. If you don’t treat it
as a chore, neither will your child.