How to Build Reading Comprehension

Sharing stories and reading books is a huge part of anyone’s childhood. Even before children acquire the ability to read, children have a grasp of language from hearing the people around them talk.

Reading Aloud

Studies have shown that reading aloud to children helps them develop comprehension skills. By hearing the words and conventions repeatedly like “once upon a time” and “a long time ago”), children pick up on the linguistic cues. By the time they can read on their own, children are already familiar with the conventions and gain a better understanding of books, stories, and how they are structured.

I will be discussing below some strategies to help build comprehension through reading aloud. Before getting into that, it is important to choose the right book. The basic criteria for choosing the right book is to determine whether it has a good story and if it’s worth sharing with the student. Make sure that the story is engaging enough so that the students can pay attention as you read the story.

Many children’s books tackle universal ideas of belief in oneself, taking care of our surroundings, and building and nurturing relationships with family and friends.

The Strategies

Reading aloud does not solely rest on the shoulders of the teacher or parent. It is an interactive reading session where the reader (teacher or parent) asks questions that connect the story and the child through “think-alouds.” Think-alouds are the questions and statements that connect the story and the child. To have a successful read-aloud session, teachers and parents should make the necessary preparations.

Below are some strategies:

  • Connect to life experience – the teacher will ask questions that connect the story to a student’s recent experiences: “Charlie from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was living with his grandparents. I never lived with mine, but I visit them often. Do you visit your grandparents?”
  • Connect to other literature they have read – the teacher will connect the story being read aloud to stories that may be familiar to the students: “The main characters in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and Alice in Wonderland go on an adventure in a different world. Do you know of other stories where the main characters go on an adventure?”
  • Connect to universal concepts – the teacher will identify a universal concept in the story and share it with the class. The teacher may ask the class if they agree or disagree. This will encourage students to ponder on the story that they read: “The story of Matilda made me realize that it is not okay to be mean to other people. Even if you are stronger than another person, you can’t just hurt them. What are your thoughts about the book?”

Final Thoughts

Reading aloud with children helps them build comprehension. Through this activity, students are trained to focus on elements of a story and connect them with their experiences. It helps children develop a deeper understanding of a text.

Read-aloud sessions require the choice of an appropriate book, careful planning, and some practice, especially if you are a teacher who wants to try this with a class. Always remember that read-aloud sessions are more about building comprehension by making connections and not about memorizing plot points. Teachers have to have the openness to going slightly off-track and off-topic every once in a while.