Q: My daughter is in third grade. She can read a story but afterwards she can’t answer any questions about it. She doesn’t understand what she’s read. What can I do to help her learn to comprehend?
A: There are many things you can try to improve her reading comprehension. One method really works well at home if the child is willing to work with her parent. If not, ask a relative, friend or tutor to work on her with this.
Does your daughter have a favorite book? It can be an easy one; it doesn’t have to be at third grade level.
Tell her that you’re going to try an experiment. Ask her to imagine the book in her mind as a video, or a series of pictures, sentence by sentence. Read it to her, one sentence at a time, or one paragraph at a time, depending on her reading level and understanding.
After each sentence (or paragraph), ask her what she sees in her video or picture. The reason for offering both is that different children picture or envision things in different ways. Some kids might even prefer to use real people, places, things and actions in their mind’s eye.
Encourage her to describe what she sees. Ask for details, if she’s enjoying it. The longer and more clearly she “sees” the picture, and the longer she thinks about it and “decorates” it, the better her memory and understanding of what’s happened on the page will become.
Continue only until she begins to lose interest. Some kids can do this for a long time and feel fully engaged. Many think it’s quite fun! Others can only handle a few pages at a time.
Finish the book each time, even if it takes a few days.
The only exception is if the experience is upsetting for her. If so, we will need to find another way to solve the problem.
This is one way to begin the process for her to learn to understand what she reads. There are many other things to try after this, and I’ll include them here soon.