Things Parents Can Do to Help Build Up a Child's Comprehension Skills

By Jennifer Zimmerman
Reading together is key to developing comprehension skills.
Reading together is key to developing comprehension skills.

Comprehension is the entire point of reading. There's no use in being able to pronounce every word in the recipe if you don't know what "broil" means. Many times, though, children are so preoccupied with learning how to decode, or sound out, words that they don't pay attention to comprehension. Parents don't need to have teaching expertise to help build their child's comprehension skills.

Reading Aloud

The most important thing parents can do to build a child's comprehension skills is to read aloud with them. According to Reading Rockets, reading aloud is the most important factor for reading success. When children feel free to simply listen to stories, they can focus on the plot, language patterns and new vocabulary words more completely than they can when they are preoccupied with decoding. Reading aloud to children also exposes them to more complex books than they can read independently, simultaneously preparing them for reading more complex books and encouraging them to want to become better readers.

Thinking Aloud

Parents can further build comprehension skills by thinking aloud as they read to their children. That means explaining the ideas, pictures, questions and connections that go through your mind as you read to your child, says K12 Reader. By doing this, you model the way good readers interact with text. So if you read the sentence, "Louis turned red when he tripped," you might pause and share the picture of Louis that you have in your mind or share about a time when you were embarrassed.


In addition to modeling what those with good comprehension skills do, encourage your child to be actively engaged with the text. The Before-During-After technique recommended by Reading Rockets is an effective way to engage your child, whether you are reading aloud or whether your child is reading to you. Before reading, help your child understand the subject and the purpose of the text. Ask him to read the title, look at the pictures together and then ask him to make predictions on what he thinks the book is about or what he thinks will happen in the story. During reading, encourage him to ask about any new vocabulary words, to visualize what's going on in the story and to make more detailed predictions. After reading, let your child reflect. You might start by having him rate the book or chapter and then move on to listing his favorite part and summarizing what happened.

More Techniques

Not every way to build comprehension skills entails sitting down with a book. Using a complex recipe while cooking with your child is one active and delicious way to practice comprehension. Reading the rules and attempting to play a new board game is another fun way to work on comprehension skills. Following written directions to build a new toy or piece of furniture is another option.

About the Author

Jennifer Zimmerman is a former preschool and elementary teacher who has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written numerous articles for The Bump, Band Back Together, Prefab and other websites, and has edited scripts and reports for DWJ Television and Inversion Productions. She is a graduate of Boston University and Lewis and Clark College.