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Improve Reading Comprehension

I know! I know! It’s summer! Why are we thinking about reading comprehension? We are supposed to be swimming and vacationing and all that!

But the ‘Summer Slide’ is real, and according to Scholastic, kids lose significant knowledge in reading and math over summer break, which tends to have a snowball effect as they experience subsequent skill loss each year. A recent study of children in 3rd to 5th grades also showed that students lost, on average, about 20 percent of their school-year gains in reading and 27 percent of their school-year gains in math during summer break.

Strong reading comprehension skills are one of the foundations of a successful academic career. According to the Institute of Reading Development, students with strong reading comprehension skills get a big boost in all subjects, including math and science.

Though the benefits of reading comprehension are well documented, many students are struggling in this area of their academics. Officials with the National Center for Education Statistics note that, over the last decade, students have made no progress in reading performance. That likely comes as no surprise to seasoned educators, as data indicates students are reading less outside of school than they have in years past. Data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress indicates the percentage of public-school students who said they read 30 minutes or more a day declined by 4 percent between 2017 and 2019, dipping below 50 percent overall in the latter year.

There’s likely a multitude of reasons why students now read less than they used to. Parents concerned about their children’s reading comprehension can try these strategies to bolster this highly valuable skill.

Let kids read what they like. The tutoring professionals at Oxford Learning® report that 73 percent of students indicate they would read more if they found books they liked. Parents can address this issue by taking children to their local libraries and letting them choose which books to check out. The more practice kids get with reading, the more their comprehension skills develop. I’m a firm believer in the ‘if they can read it, they can read it’ philosophy. Even if it’s ‘above their level’, or maybe even a little ‘inappropriate’, let them read it. Trust me, I remember reading “Carrie” then I was about 11. Not only am I fine, but I’m still an avid reader to this day.

Read aloud to children. Various studies have found that reading aloud to children significantly benefits literacy development. One study from the National Association for the Education of Young Children found that listening to others read helps children develop key understanding and skills, including how stories are written. If you have a child that is struggling with reading comprehension, this is often a good way to help. Sometimes comprehending is easier if you are listening to it, and it’s also a great way to spend time and bond with your child(ren).

Ask questions when reading to children. When reading to children, parents can compound the benefits of this activity by asking youngsters questions about the book. Asking what, when, where, why, and how can encourage children to look for answers to these questions while they’re being read to. This is also a good strategy to employ when kids are reading on their own. Are they really reading and comprehending what they read, or are the skimming through to get in their reading time, but not actually absorbing what they are reading? It becomes clear, pretty quickly if you are asking detailed questions about what they just read.