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Expert Tips on Improving Your Child's Reading Comprehension

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My son is eight years old and starting third grade in September. I have noticed that he has problems in comprehending what he reads and being able to explain the main concept. What can I do as a parent to improve his reading comprehension? In addition, when he was asked at school to look at a certain picture and write a story about it, he would come up with mostly unrelated themes.

A: When young children have difficulty understanding what they read, they are not really reading. To be a reader, you must know what the words are saying. Your son's problem may be purely a comprehension problem or could be due to other poor reading skills.

At the start of the school year, you will want to keep close tabs on how your son is doing in reading by talking to his teacher frequently. He may need some special help to improve his reading skills.

Meanwhile, there are things that you can do to improve his comprehension when you read to him or he reads to you. Try using the following strategies that classroom teachers use:

  1. Read the story first yourself.
  2. Introduce words and concepts that he may not know.
  3. Provide him with background information about the story. For example, he might need to know more about glaciers or gliders if he is reading about these topics.
  4. Ask who, what, when, where, and why questions about a story after reading it. If he can't answer these questions, try asking them after reading a few paragraphs.

You can definitely help your son learn to look at a picture and then write about it. First, you will need to model for him how it's done. Select a variety of pictures, and tell him simple stories about them. Then have him add elements to these stories before starting to tell his own stories. You may need to give him some suggestions to keep him on a single theme and also to ask questions to get him started. Once he can tell stories about pictures, he'll be able to write them.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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