supporting-comprehension-RARIn this final installment of our series detailing the 5 fundamental reading skills, we’ll be looking closely at comprehension—the ability to not only read words, but understand their individual meanings and their meanings within the context of a sentence and story. Reading comprehension is, perhaps, the pinnacle of all reading skills. After all, what’s the point of being able to read words if you don’t understand them, right?

Some children can demonstrate an understanding of phonics/phonemic awareness, read basic sentences fluently, identify many written words by sight, and still not understand what they are reading. Some children can even successfully “read” an entire book out loud, but if asked to describe what the book is about, they’re not able to give an accurate answer. That is why comprehension in and of itself is an important component of reading instruction.

Here are a few activities you can use to support your child’s comprehension:

  • Preview the book or story before you read, looking at the title, pictures, and topic.
  • Make predictions about what might happen in the story.
  • Provide background knowledge: Comprehension can be impeded by a lack of “background knowledge.” For example, if a child is given a book about the Erie Canal, but does not know what a canal is, she will have difficulty understanding what the book will be about. If your child encounters a book about a possibly unfamiliar subject, take the time to help her gain some background knowledge about the subject before reading the book.
  • Ask questions during reading: Asking your child questions during the reading process will give her practice with synthesizing information and focusing on comprehension.
  • Encourage your child to form a mental picture during reading, like a movie playing in her head.

As your child becomes proficient in writing, you can also encourage him to write brief plot summaries of the books he reads in order to solidify his understanding of the text. has a wealth of other activities designed to enhance reading comprehension, so be sure to check them out as well! Do you have other ideas for helping readers increase their comprehension? Please share them in the comments section!