Reading Comprehension Basics
My 7 year old has been trying a variety of reading comprehension programs. His reading ability is roughly at the 6th grade level, but his comprehension level is 3rd grade. It’s my fault. We focused on reading for 4 years and I neglected comprehension skills. Nevertheless, we’re catching up. Thus, we’ve been trying comprehension workbooks to find out which one works best for him. This search for a good method has taught me an important lesson. Comprehension, at least for Neil, has been a matter of daily repetition of a few basic rules. His inclination, since our concentration had been on simply reading words for so long, is to breeze through books without stopping to think about what’s being said. Comprehension, then, has been an exercise in slowing down. The workbooks we’ve settled on are the Evan-Moor Nonfiction Reading Practice books (we’re using the 3rd grade one). They correlate to state standards, which is good. The other thing I like about them is that they follow a pre-determined approach to process each reading lesson. It’s not enough to sit down, read, and answer questions. Neil needed a pre-flight check list to keep him on track. Here it is:
Before I Read
___ I think about what I already know.
___ I think about what I want to learn.
___ I predict what is going to happen.
___ I read the title for clues.
___ I look at the pictures for clues.
While I Read
___ I stop and retell to check what I remember
___ I reread parts that are confusing.
___ I read the captions under the pictures.
___ I make pictures of the story in my mind.
___ I figure out ways to understand hard words.
After I Read
___ I think about what I have just read.
___ I speak, draw, and write about what I read.
___ I reread favorite parts.
___ I reread to find details.
___ I look back at the story to find answers to questions.
Before Neil starts reading his lessons, I make him read this check list. He thinks it’s silly because he says “I know it already!” but I’ve noticed a big improvement despite his insistence otherwise. Every day of our first week in this workbook I read and explained the rules to him. For instance, where it says, “I stop and retell to check what I remember.” I explained the importance of retelling passages in our own words to make them easier to understand. Now, when he reads this list before a lesson, he knows exactly what is meant by each instruction. Comprehension has suddenly become much easier. It might seem simplistic and unimaginative to just have a kid read a check-list every day, but it works (as long as each instruction is understood).