Five Ways to Improve Reading Comprehension

Reading words on a page is one thing, to comprehend what the text means is quite the other. Early readers can often understand the most basic interpretation of a text but miss the plot or the emotions of the characters.

Reading comprehension is an acquired skill, so with enough practice any student can boost their understanding of the stories or texts they read. Here are some ways you can help your children improve their reading comprehension skills.

Pick appropriately leveled books they like

The best way to gauge the level of book that is right for your child is to pick books where they recognize at least 90 percent of the words with no help from you. To stop more often to learn new words will break the flow of the reading, and your child will struggle to focus on the meaning and context of the story or text.

As important, as picking the right level of reading, is the topic and type of book you choose. Early readers are more engaged in the reading process when they get to read about something they are actually interested in.

Talk about what they are reading

The best way to help your kids remember and think through the themes, plots, characters of a story, or the content of another type of text, is to talk about what you are reading. Ask questions before you start reading, during the reading and after you’ve finished the text. This will help your child think about the comprehension of that text.

Some questions you can ask are:

Before:

  • Why did you pick this story or text? What is it that interests you about this story/text?

During:

  • What is happening in the text?
  • Is it happening the way you expected it to?
  • What would you like to happen next?

After:

  • Can you tell me what happened in the story?
  • What did you like about this story/text?
  • What did you not like about this story/text?
  • Can you think of other stories/texts that are similar?
  • Would you like to read more books on this topic?

Have them read aloud

When we read aloud, there are two things that happen:

  • We slow down.
  • We are not only seeing the words but hearing them too.

By giving themselves more time to process the content, students improve the comprehension of that text. Further, hearing themselves read, and for us to hear them utter the words, gives them opportunity to hear the words, and for us to make any corrections where necessary.

Reread to build fluency

When kids read at a good pace and smoothly, they gain meaning from the text. Experts call this fluency in reading. The best way to gain fluency is to practice by rereading the same stories/texts or parts of stories/texts.

Talk about difficult words and passages

A critical component to reading comprehension is understanding what the words mean. As kids tackle harder stories and texts, it’s important that they continually work on their vocabulary.

The most successful way to gain vocabulary is for students to write down the words they don’t understand as they come upon them in a story or text. Have them look up the word in a dictionary. Then ask them to rephrase the sentence containing the difficult word in their own words to truly grasp the context of the word in that sentence.

Reading comprehension worksheets

On our website you’ll find thousands of stories for kindergarten to grade 5 students. We’ve also created leveled workbooks you can purchase as PDF files. We’ve put significant effort into reading comprehension as we understand how critical it is for lifelong success.

A good starting point for exploring our free stories with accompanying comprehension exercises is this page:

Sample reading comprehension worksheet
Sample reading comprehension worksheet

Apart from some kindergarten worksheets, all of the grade-level worksheets contain answer sheets.