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How to Teach Reading Comprehension

two bugs in a stack of books

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:

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.)

reading comprehension strategies chart

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.

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

All about Reading Story Lesson

As you watch the video below, 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
  • skimming

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!

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Hamdi Elmasri

says:

Some educational experts say that asking children to read loudly is a matter of wasting time because they are not good models. They’d better read silently. They also say that the target of teaching reading comprehension is to extract certain and specific information.

Robin

says: Customer Service

Hamdi,
Only by listening to a child read aloud can you determine what difficulties they may be having and how to address them. For example, if a child is reading silently and having trouble with comprehension, how does a someone know what the cause of the comprehension problem is? Is the child guessing at words, skipping words, or something else?

However, we agree it is important for a child to hear lots of good models of reading aloud. We recommend reading aloud to children daily as well as listening to audiobooks.

Jumoke Taiwo

says:

Thanks for this.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Jumoke.

Samantha Miller

says:

Great article!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Samantha!

Julie

says:

All About Reading and All About Spelling seems to have all the correct ingredients for a solid Structured Literacy approach to learning.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Julie!

Mary Anne Romanchuk

says:

This is such a balanced approach!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Mary Anne.

Julie

says:

But it is not what is called Balanced Literacy, but Structured Literacy. Correct?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Julie,
You are correct that All About Reading and All About Spelling are not related to what is called the “Balanced Literacy” methodology.

The approach All About Learning Press uses is in line with what is called “Structured Literacy”. Structured Literacy is an umbrella term used by the International Dyslexia Association. Marie Rippel, author and creator of the programs, is a member of the International Dyslexia Association.

Neysa

says:

I love the point about reading a variety of books to help kids gain background knowledge- ” Reading a wide variety of books helps build a storehouse of knowledge of places, events, emotions, vocabulary, and language structure.” This is actually one of the easiest and most inexpensive ways if you use your public library…plus will also help develop a love of books and reading! Great article!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Neysa. And such a great point about utilizing libraries for developing a wealth of background knowledge through books!

Lisa P.

says:

Your tips are really helpful. Reading comprehension isn’t a problem just for kids beginning to read, but it seems to be for many adults, as well. I think many people learned to read, but never learned to comprehend what they read, so it’s good to start early with young readers to make sure they understand what they’re reading.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Great point, Lisa! Thank you.

Sheena

says:

Wonderful article about reading comprehension, and useful information as well! It’s nice to see information that’s focused on comprehension skills because usually it’s all about letter sounds and decoding. Comprehension can be started much earlier to give children a jump start.
I’m new to this program, and thanks to Torrie Oglesby will be looking forward to using it with my children!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sheena,
Such great points about comprehension skills from a young age. In fact, you can start working on reading comprehension even before a child can read by 4 Great Ways to Build Listening Comprehension. Listening comprehension is a precursor to reading comprehension, so it’s important to develop.

Liz

says:

Good thoughts on teaching comprehension! I used several reading programs before soundly landing here…my son struggles to read and this is definitely the best we had so far.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Liz.

Liz

says:

Reading comprehension needs to be focused on an early age since it would be part of the kids’ foundation to more in depth learning as they grow. All about reading is a great tool to start.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Liz!

Amber Z.

says:

Thank you. My son is loving All about Reading so far. We are only about 1/2 way through the 1st level. He has come so far in such a short time. I will definitely be buying level 2. I also enjoy reading these articles on here, they are super helpful to this homeschool mama of an only child. Thank you again.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Amber! It’s wonderful to hear that All About Reading is working out so well for you and your son.

Angel

says:

Always a good reminder to focus on the comprehension. I get carried away with the actual reading of the words and need to spend more time on comprehension and being sure she is learning both.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad this is helpful, Angel.

Kimberly N

says:

As a homeschool mom with two children on the spectrum, it was hard to find a pre-reading curriculum that was hands on, minimal prep, easy to use/teach and that would help build their comprehension and confidence in letters and rhyming, with having speech delays. We started with the Pre-Reading level this past school year and it was been an absolute game changer! My oldest, age 5, has mastered his letters and sounds, and wants to play Ziggy games all the time! It’s been amazing and I highly recommend!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I was so excited to read this, Kimberly! It’s wonderful to hear that All About Reading Pre-reading is working so well for your children and I love that your 5-year-old wants to play Ziggy games all the time! Thank you for sharing this!

Felicia

says:

Thankful for the All About Reading Program, it has really made both my kids super strong readers and I’m blown away daily by their abilities! Changed our homeschooling experience so much.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It’s so great to hear that All About Reading is making a difference in your homeschool, Felicia! It sounds like your kids are doing very well!

Kris Palmer

says:

I purchased my first All About learning and my learners are eager for more. The reading strategies are easy to implement and the information on your site are quite engaging.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Kris!

Courtney Paquin

says:

This is very helpful, thanks!

Abbey

says:

I’ve been teaching for quite a few years in public school and am now making the huge life change to teaching my own children. This post resonates deeply for me as I have seen how all of these aspects of reading fit together in order to lead kids to comprehend what they read. What was new for me in this post is the fact that comprehension happens unconsciously. This is so true but I had never thought about it before. I will also change my mentality in teaching comprehension thanking about not just teaching one strategy at a time. Reading had many different components and teaching one strategy in isolation is not the way to go. Rather having the mindset that we will learn and work on many different things is going to help me very much with my own children. Thank you for this post!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Abbey! I’m glad this will be helpful for you as your teach your own children!

Beverly Kolanek

says:

Thank you, my son struggles with comprehension.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Beverly. I hope you find this helpful, but if you need additional ideas, please let me know. I’m happy to help!

Mirriam kabwesha

says:

Very helpful

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Mirriam.

Nomsa Stella Matobela

says:

I love this!!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Nomsa!

AmyT

says:

Helpful! So far comprehension hasn’t been a problem, I think it helps that my kids enjoy the AAR stories.

Melissa

says:

Love this! Super helpful! ❤️

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Melissa!

Stephanie Schulte

says:

Great tips! Reading comprehension is such a needed skill. I’m going to focus on that a lot this year with my 2nd grader

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m glad these will be helpful for you, Stephanie!

Jane W

says:

Thank you for this printable poster!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Jane!

Joy M Hanchett

says:

This is super useful! Our daughter has benefitted so much from the phonics and spelling, and I’m eager to grow her comprehension, too. :)

Sarah Salome Klopfenstein

says:

I love this! Gives me a great insight into how the curriculum actually works in helping my child to read and understand better!

Mary

says:

Thanks for the tips!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Mary!

Jennifer Smith

says:

I love these strategies and tips of what not to do. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Jennifer!

Chelsey King

says:

The three things not to do were super helpful. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m pleased to hear the “NOT to Do” section was so helpful, Chelsey! You’re welcome.

Andy and Kristen Inch

says:

Great job explaining. I liked the video. Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you!