Reading comprehension, simply put, means understanding what you are reading. It means making sense of the words on a page.
But how do you know if you're adequately supporting your kindergartner's reading comprehension? What strategies do you use to teach this? And how do you know if your child is on the right track?
As parents, it can feel overwhelming to incorporate reading comprehension strategies into your at home teaching routine. In reality, by embedding a few key strategies into your daily read aloud time, you begin laying the foundation for children to engage meaningfully with books.
Reading comprehension in kindergarten, and even prior, happens primarily through reading out loud to your child. You, as the expert reader, demonstrate fluency in reading, thereby allowing your child to spend their mental energy focusing on the story itself and making sense of that story. Your role, as the expert reader, is to demonstrate, or model, how you engage with the book to make meaning.
Read below for 10 subtle, yet powerful strategies to use while reading out loud to your child. Using these strategies during your read aloud time are key to developing your child’s reading comprehension.
Strategy #1: Read Out Loud Every Day
Make sure you are reading out loud every day for at least 15 minutes. This is a critical, sacred time. Reading out loud is when your child gets to hear an expert reader and practice making meaning from books. All of the strategies listed below can happen in this short period of time. Simply sitting down and reading out loud while modeling and engaging your child in these very specific strategies will help your child develop reading comprehension skills.
Strategy #2: Ask Questions
While reading out loud to your child, periodically stopping to ask questions about the story will engage them so much more deeply in the reading process. Rather than sitting passively as you read to them, asking questions encourages them to think, reason, and search for answers and connections. This is at the heart of teaching reading comprehension. Asking questions sets a purpose for reading and involves your child in paying close attention to the story to find the answers to the questions.
While reading out loud to your child, regularly model how to ask questions about the story you’re reading at the beginning, middle, and end of your read aloud time.
Here’s what this may sound like:
Before Reading: “This looks like an interesting book. I wonder what this book will be about. I see a sad dog on the cover. I wonder if this story is about a dog who gets lost?”
During Reading: “Oh no! The puppy went too far into the forest while playing! I wonder if he will make it home before dark?”
After Reading: “I wonder what the puppy will do the next time they are playing in the forest? What would you do differently?”
Make sure to spend lots of time demonstrating how you ask questions about the book before asking your child to create or generate questions themselves. Otherwise, this can lead to overwhelm and resistance if they feel put on the spot. Instead, as you model asking questions and answering questions yourself, your child will begin to pick up on the fact that this is something that good readers do.
It is equally important to empower your child by posing questions without providing them with the answers. Using questions like “What do you think? Why do you think that?” will help them engage in the story and make meaning. Use phrases to show them how powerful reading can be and to signify the start of reading for a purpose. One of our favorites is “Let’s read to find out!”
Click here for a free list of before, during, and after questions to include during your read aloud sessions.
Strategy #3: Activate Background Knowledge
Before beginning any read aloud book, spend some time looking at the front and back cover, the title, as well as the table of contents, if it has one. Take some time to make observations about what you know about the story before reading it.
If you are working with a picture book, encourage your child to do a picture walk. A picture walk is simply previewing the pictures in the book before reading the story itself. This activity allows your child to start activating and waking up their background knowledge on the topic of the book. This helps children “warm-up” and prepare to make meaning from a story before beginning. As you flip through the book, ask questions such as, “What do you think this might be about? What do you notice?” As questions or observations come up, respond with the phrase, “Let’s read to find out!” This builds on your child’s engagement and interest and encourages them to think critically while reading.
Strategy #4: Make Predictions About the Book
Making a prediction about the book means using clues that the author gives you, along with your background knowledge, to make a guess about what might happen next in the story. Rather than simply asking a question about the book, we are attempting to answer our own question. Before you begin reading, encourage your child to use the title and images on the front cover to make a prediction about what the story will be about. During the reading, take a moment to make a prediction about what might happen next in the story. And as you come to the end of the story, make a prediction about what might happen if the story were to continue.
Again, it’s so important as the expert reader to model this process for your child. It’s brand new to them and they haven’t necessarily done this type of thinking before. As the expert reader, demonstrate how you pose a question and make a guess about the answer. A question elicits a prediction, and then leads into “I think...because…” statements. We are asking children to use clues in the book, as well as to tap into what they already know about a topic, to help them make sense of what will come next in the story.
You can use this same strategy with nonfiction texts or books. Ask, “What do you think this book is trying to teach us?” Engage in a picture walk to look through the images in the book and to notice any text features included, such as charts, labels, graphs, or headings. Then ask, “What do you think this book will be about? What is it going to tea