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How to Help Your Child Improve Their Reading Comprehension (At Home)

Reading comprehension is a skill that will assist a child’s thinking and learning ability throughout their life. A majority of schools teach reading comprehension skills in language courses through short stories and novel studies.

With every grade, schools build upon these skills until children can critically think and analyze texts by themselves. These skills are further applied in other subjects, as well as many other aspects of a child’s life.

Some children have poor reading comprehension skills, making it harder for them to understand the concepts that they are taught. If you feel that your child is struggling to adopt this skill, you can help your child improve their reading comprehension at home.

Keep reading to learn how.

Help Your Child Improve Their Reading Comprehension
Help Your Child Improve Their Reading Comprehension


In This Article


What is Reading Comprehension?

Why is Reading Comprehension Important?

ACES describes reading comprehension as "the ability to look at words and sentences and recognize thoughts and ideas". It’s when readers can apply a deeper meaning to a text and find lessons and teachings that they can implement in real life.

Reading comprehension skills aren’t just useful in classroom settings. Reading comprehension skills can be applied to all aspects of an individual's life. It improves vocabulary, which in turn improves language speaking and writing skills.

Reading comprehension skills expand an individual’s mindset and critical thinking capabilities. This is highly crucial because it further affects how the person a child will grow up to be and how they perceive the world around them.

Having these skills will make it easier for your child to make connections and overcome conflict because they will be able to analyze situations and find solutions.

What are the Effects of Poor Reading Comprehension?

Reading comprehension is an exercise for the brain. Having poor reading comprehension at an early age will lead your child to miss very important keys to their development. Those missed stages of development will not come again, greatly impacting your child’s learning and functioning abilities.

Poor reading comprehension can result in a lack of productivity (which is often mistaken for laziness). It can make it difficult to communicate and work according to instructions (recognize details and important meanings)

Poor reading comprehension is quite literally the inability to comprehend words, thoughts, instructions, and concepts. It is not something that should be taken lightly.

Help further enhance your children’s brain development: Learning through play

Why Does My Child Struggle with Comprehension?

Some children are unable to learn at the same pace as other children. Sometimes children just take longer to absorb the information that is given to them. Other children learn better through visual learning instead of sounding words.

Children that are learning a second language will also need extra help with their reading comprehension. Children who are deaf or mute might also have poor reading comprehension. While we use our hearing and sounding skills to read, these children have to rely solely on the word in front of them.

In these cases, having a little extra help will be enough to improve the child’s reading comprehension skills in a short amount of time.

In other situations, children with disabilities and reading disorders may struggle with their language skills throughout their life (although they may see improvement).

Why Do Gifted Children Struggle in their Later Years?

The National Association For Gifted Children (NAGC) defines giftedness in children as:

“Students with gifts and talents perform—or have the capability to perform—at higher levels compared to others of the same age, experience, and environment in one or more domains.”

One of these domains can be reading comprehension. Some children have exceptional reading abilities. These children usually read books from higher grade levels.

In most places, children’s books are labeled with colored stickers that symbolize each grade (as shown below).

Comprehension Book for Kids
Comprehension Book for Kids

It is very common for gifted children to struggle in their later years. This is because giftedness is known as asynchronous development. Gifted children are usually made to excel past their age-appropriate development in one domain.

In this case, children excel in their intellectual development. However, because the child’s development is not in sync (their emotional and physical development is not on the same level as their intellectual development), gifted children often experience obstacles in their learning.

One of the biggest obstacles for gifted children is self-doubt. Gifted children are intellectual, but aren’t able to formulate those thoughts and express them in practice. As a result, they often experience frustration and begin to doubt their abilities, causing their abilities to suddenly decline in their later years.

Furthermore, some gifted children are not taught properly according to their learning abilities. A gifted child might take in a lot of information at a young age but is unable to comprehend or understand what they have learned once they grow up.

An example of this is children that are gifted in reading. Children that read beyond their abilities at a young age obtain a big vocabulary. Yet, because they are unable to use those words at their age, they struggle to explain the words when they are older.

These children know where a word should fit in a sentence because it just feels right to them, not because they know the definition of the word. Although these children are smart, they are unable to express their knowledge because they haven’t been taught to vocalize that knowledge or apply those teachings in real-life situations.

What Disabilities Affect Comprehension?

Reading Disorders: Why Can’t I Understand What I Read?

Some children have poor reading comprehension, not because they are struggling to understand, but because they are suffering from reading disorders.

Many conditions can affect a child’s reading ability. This includes:

  • Autism


  • Dyslexia

  • Speech and language disorders

According to, there are three kinds of developmental disorder deficiencies that can affect how a child reads.

These are:

  1. Phonological deficit

  2. Processing speed/orthographic processing deficit

  3. Comprehension deficit

Phonological Deficit

A phonological deficit is when the brain’s phonological processing system doesn't work. Phonological processing refers to the speech sounds and phonemes that differentiate similar words and letters in written language.

An example of a phoneme is the words b, p, and d. A child with a phonological deficit will not be able to recognize the difference between these words in writing. They will also struggle to understand words that contain these letters and sound similar.

Parents Teaching Kids Comprehension
Parents Teaching Kids Comprehension

Speed/Orthographic Processing Deficit

Speed and orthographic deficits affect a child’s ability to process written words, affecting their reading speed and word accuracy.

The orthographic deficit is considered a fluency problem because orthographic refers to word recognition.

For instance, a child with an orthographic deficit will be unable to pronounce the word HOUSE properly. Because the letters ‘O’ and ‘U’ come together to make a slight ‘W’ sound, the child will pronounce this word as HOWSE because they cannot differentiate between the sounds of written words.

Comprehension Deficit

A comprehension deficit is a combination of the above deficits. It includes both oral and written language deficiency, making it difficult for a child to comprehend what they are reading.

This form of deficit is often found in children with autism and other social-linguistic disabilities.

Does ADHD Affect Reading Comprehension?

It is common for children with ADHD to struggle with reading comprehension. Children with ADHD have trouble focusing on the text in front of them because they lose interest quickly.

This makes them easily distracted, which prevents them from identifying details and connections within the text.

Some children with ADHD (and in some cases dyslexia) have extremely poor reading skills. This disorder is known as a specific reading comprehension deficit (S-RCD).

What is Hyperlexia?

Hyperlexia is a term used to describe "exceptional reading abilities in children". Children with hyperlexia are above average in their reading comprehension skills.

There are three forms of hyperlexia:

  1. Temporary hyperlexia: Children excel in their reading abilities because they learn faster than other children.

  2. Neurodevelopmental hyperlexia: Children with neurodevelopmental disorders (mainly autism) are extraordinarily intelligent in their reading abilities.

  3. Degenerative hyperlexia: Children that belong to the second form of hyperlexia.

There are two main differences.

  • The symptoms of hyperlexia disappear with time.

  • Children in this category have excellent thinking and learning abilities but struggle to communicate verbally.

Hyperlexia is not a disorder itself and does not require treatment. Children from the second and third categories that have autism may require speech therapy or additional treatment to help support their learning abilities.

What are the Signs of Hyperlexia?

Some common signs of hyperlexia are:

  • Advanced reading comprehension skills

  • Obsession with numbers and letters

  • Sensory sensitivity

  • Difficulty with verbal communication

  • Excellent visual and auditory memory

  • Word and phrase repetition

  • Exceptional memory (memorize dates and other small details)

  • Interest in books in comparison to games or toys

Some of the signs of hyperlexia are linked to autistic behaviors (like word repetition). However, as mentioned above, not all individuals with hyperlexia have neurodevelopmental disorders.

How to Help with Reading Comprehension at Home

While reading comprehension is important in many ways, poor reading comprehension can lead your child to struggle in their language arts class. In most language exams, students have to read a short story that is provided to them, and then have to answer questions about the text.

Some of the questions look like this:

  • Why do you think the author chose this title?

  • How do you know if this book is fiction or nonfiction?

  • Where is the story set? How do you know?

  • What is the significance of this memory?

  • What message is the author trying to convey?

  • How does the character feel when [this] happens?

  • Which of these quotes from the short story best describes the theme?

  • Does this book remind you of any other books you have read?

  • How does the message of this story relate to real life?

Since students won’t have access to the text beforehand, they have to rely solely on their comprehension skills and strategies. Reading more and practicing reading strategies is the best way to improve these skills.

What are Reading Comprehension Strategies?

The best reading comprehension strategy is active reading. Simply put, active reading is when a reader consciously pays attention to the details of the text to better understand the author’s perspective.

Active readers use these details to determine their perspective on the text they are reading.

Here’s how to be an active reader.

Before Reading

Before reading, analyze the information you have by skimming the text once.

  • Title: What clues are given in the title?

  • Context: Often in short stories, background information is provided to the reader in a small paragraph. The paragraph isn’t a part of the story, but it can suggest the author’s intention behind writing the story as well as other useful information.

  • What is the point of view? (1st, 2nd, 3rd limited, 3rd objective, 3rd omniscient)

  • Make predictions about what will happen (In the end compare it to what happened)

While Reading

First Read

  • Enjoy the story

  • Don’t make notes yet

  • Get an idea about the structure and ideas

Second Read:

  • Read the story again but this time make notes

  • Read Footnotes

  • Look up hard words

  • Observe vocabulary (do any words have double meanings or additional connotations?)

  • Identify figurative language, literary devices, and imagery

  • Are there any symbols?

  • What is the type of writing (argumentative, descriptive, etc)

  • What is the tone and mood? How do you know?

  • Find patterns

  • What is the story's rhythm and style?

  • What is the sentence structure (short simple sentences or long and descriptive—what is the effect?)

  • Is there repetition? Why?


  • Contrast and contradictions (conflict of ideas and desires)

  • Aha moments (did the character realize something?)

  • Words of the wiser (any advice given in the story)

  • Theme or conflict (ideas that are repeated)

  • Memories (why is this flashback important?)

The easiest way to note all of these points is to have your child annotate the text while they read. They can use sticky notes or highlight words and phrases.

Annotating identifies how well the reader understands the text. It also makes it easier to go back and review the major points of the story. When annotating, use a legend like the one below or something similar to it.

After Reading

Most children understand what they read, but aren’t sure what the reading comprehension question is asking of them. That is why it is important to analyze the information obtained after reading.

  • Write a summary paragraph about the book

  • Identify the theme and give examples from the text to show how the author presented those ideas

  • Look over previous predictions and find a conclusion (were you right?)

  • What part was your favorite? What did you dislike?

  • Connect personally to the story, characters, or ideas

  • Make real-life connections

By using these strategies, you can help your child fix their poor reading comprehension.

Mom Reading Book to Children at Home
Mom Reading Book to Children at Home

What are Comprehension Skills?

Comprehension skills are skills that improve reading comprehension.

Some of these skills are:

  • Phonemic awareness

The ability to identify and manipulate individual sounds in spoken words (phonemes)

  • Phonological awareness

The ability to recognize and manipulate the spoken parts of words (syllables)

  • Fluency

The ability to read with accuracy and proper expression while still maintaining speed

  • Improved vocabulary

Words that the reader understands

  • Writing and sentence structure skills

The ability to identify different components and elements of a sentence

  • Memory and attention to detail

The ability to recognize key elements of a story and remember important details

  • Phonics

Matching the sounds of letters by grouping them (p and h come together to make the ph–and f sound)

Improving these skills can enhance your child’s reading comprehension.

What Are Context Clues With Examples?

"Context clues are hints that add further meaning or understanding to an unfamiliar word or phrase or idea". Context clues can exist in the same sentence as the specific detail or in the following sentence.

There are five major situations in which a context clue can exist:

  • Definitions and Example: Explanation of a [unfamiliar] word by definition or example.

Example: A silo is a tower in which farmers store grains like wheat, barley, or rye.

  • Restatement: The use of a synonym to explain a difficult word in simple terms.

Example: Jess is a nervous person. She is always apprehensive about leaving the house.

  • Contrast: Using an opposite word or meaning to show a contrast between two places/ideas.

Example: Jess thought that the watch was valuable but to me, it looked worthless.

  • Implications and Inferences: Present a connection that was not revealed previously in the text.

Example: “Here, eat this.” the woman said to the boy. “Thank you, Mom,” he replied.

  • Punctuation: Usage of grammar to imply certain meanings or to draw attention.

Example: We will go hiking on Saturdayif you’re willing to, that is. (The dash indicates that the individual is emphasizing that they will only go if the other person wants to).

Teaching your child context clues can make it easier for them to pinpoint certain details in the text, improving their observation and connection-making skills.

It also makes it easier for them to understand the ideas being conveyed in the text. Thus improving their reading comprehension.

Understanding context clues will assist your child when responding to reading comprehension questions (see examples given above).

Your child will also be able to find context clues in the exam questions, which will allow them to answer exactly what is asked of them.


1. Are fast readers more intelligent?

It is commonly believed that fast readers are more intelligent than slow readers. This is not true. No direct link has been found between fast reading and intelligence. Slow reading is encouraged because it helps an individual absorb what they are reading. It is true though, that individuals with good reading comprehension skills can be fast readers because it is easier for them to pick up the meaning behind the text and notice details faster. This is a correlation–not a causation.

2. Are children who read smarter?

Studies have found that children who read are more intellectual. The reason for this is that reading stimulates the brain in various ways. As mentioned above, it encourages critical thinking and understanding, which aids in every aspect of a child’s life. However, reading isn’t a measure of intellect. Children who read might do better in certain areas of study, but they can still struggle in other aspects of their life.

3. What are splinter skills?

Splinter skills come under a syndrome called savant syndrome. Savant syndrome is a rare condition in which individuals with developmental disorders have extraordinary abilities. Splinter skills are abilities that develop in an uncommon pattern. A splinter skill is usually one singular skill that isn’t related to other skills and an individual with a splinter skill only excels in that particular ability. It is also a skill that can’t be practically applied in daily life. For example, hyperlexia is a splinter skill.

4. What activities promote reading skills?

Activities like drawing, storytelling, and writing help promote brain development and critical thinking. Rhyming games, scrabble, matching games, crossword puzzles, and Pictionary can help children identify differences and make connections between objects. This works their brain, increasing their ability to comprehend and reflect on other words and concepts.

5. What are the 4 C's in reading?

The Center for Teaching and Learning’s 4 C’s reading strategy is:

  • Note concepts

  • Identify changes

  • Make connections

  • Raise challenges

In this reading strategy, first annotate details from the text (ex: characters). Then they identify changes (such as character development) and then make connections within the text and with real-life themes. Lastly, challenge the text by discussing personal opinions and questions about the ‘bigger picture’.

Takeaway from Sheasmother

Reading comprehension is perhaps the most crucial skill that children need to grasp at an early age. Poor reading comprehension skills can result in poor memory and an inability to understand and reflect on different ideas and concepts.

Parents can help their child improve their reading comprehension skills at home by using reading strategies. Help strengthen their critical thinking skills through various activities like storytelling, matching games, and much more.

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