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Improving comprehension SKILLS

At Every Lesson Counts, we often get asked about comprehension skills and how to improve them.  Naturally, the first step is regular reading (how many of us though, even as adults find it difficult to get the time for this?).

Reading a text is one thing.  Reading a text and comprehending it requires completely different skills, almost like solving a puzzle by piecing together words to build pictures, atmosphere and meaning.  Failure to achieve understanding of the text can lead us to miss subtle emotional touches or key character development.

Fortunately, it is possible to improve your comprehension skills.  Try some of the ELC advice below to take an active role in supporting your child with their development.  However, one thing is essential.  Comprehension develops through through practice; the more you read the stronger your skills will become. 


Why Reading Comprehension Is Important

Comprehending a text is a vital skill for either work or pleasure.  For young children it will help across the school curriculum with word problems in maths becoming more accessible or report writing developing more structure.  Reading for pleasure can also develop strongly which in itself is motivation enough for more people.


Just like with any goal or skill, we can master reading comprehension one step at a time. 


How to Improve Reading Comprehension

Many people advocate reading an hour a night...but come that really a realistic expectation?  Life is busy and anyone who has children, if they can point to where that spare daily hour is, well...please let us know.  

The first step is realism.  If you can get into a habit of reading for two or three hours over a course of a week that will be excellent.  It will give a chance for new words to be discovered and a variety of settings for them to appear in.


Try to provide your child with a range of articles.  Newspapers, history articles, a joke book?  Work in small, manageable chunks.  15 minutes of quality time is better than an hour that during which you both lose concentration.  Shared reading is always a great way to help as adults can spot where to put emphasis that a child may well miss.


Improve Vocabulary

Flashcards might seem a bit 'old school' but they offer the perfect chance to recap on new words.  In this modern world why not harness the mobile phone software and keep a list of words that you could reflect on.  Instead of updating a social media stream with what you had for dinner, why not try to incorporate some of the new vocabulary that you have encountered?  Drop these words into conversation with your child and help them to become increasingly confident with using a variety of vocabulary.


Summarise What You Just Read 

Every so often, pause.  Ask your child what has been happening in the story.   What do they think of a particular character.  What could possibly be about to happen?  These strategies will ensure that not only is your child reading but that they are also understanding.  If they know you are going to ask a couple of questions it may increase the effort that they put into interpreting the text rather than just 'reading' it.


Re-read (or Skim) Previous Sections of the Text

For the most part, reading is a personal activity that happens entirely in your head. So don’t feel you have to read just like anyone else if "typical" methods don’t work for you. Sometimes it can make the most sense to read (or re-read) a text out of order. 

It is often helpful to glance backwards through a piece of text (or even re-read large sections) to remind yourself of any information you need and have forgotten--what happened previously, what a particular word means, who a person was...the list is endless.

Previous sentences, sections, or even whole chapters can provide helpful context clues. Re-reading these passages will help to refresh your memory so that you can better understand and interpret later sections of the text.

Discuss the Text With a Friend (Even an Imaginary Friend)

Everyone knows that 'it is good to talk'.  Having a chat with your child about the story can help to confirm understanding and help develop a deeper appreciation of the text.

You could go all 'rubber ducky' and encourage your child to talk to a rubber duck (or other toy).

It is surprising how much more sense it can make when talked through in that way.

The Take-Aways

There is no quick fix to improving reading comprehension.  Like with more things, to become good at it will take time and effort.  However, it will be worth it.  You are building a lifelong skill so enjoy the journey!  Read for development but also make sure you are reading for pleasure.

Reading can take you places you never before realised.  Enjoy sharing this with your child and help them develop a skill they will appreciate for years to come.

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