Reading Comprehension is What It's All About or
How to Increase Your Child's Reading Skills

Reading comprehension is simply reading and understanding what you've read. It doesn't get as much attention as learning phonics, but of course, if a child doesn't read, this step doesn't matter much.

That probably explains why there are so many “quick, proven, and affordable” phonics programs that parents are more than willing to shell out.

Does reading comprehension follow automatically? Not magically. While learning all the phonics rules may only take six months or three to four years, depending on which "proven" course you buy, the road to reading well is a lifelong journey.

But it is a rewarding journey.

Photo taken by Diana Boles.

Reading comprehension endows a child with excellent analytical and reasoning skills and expands her imagination-- all tools that she will need to live a happy, peaceful, and free existence in a precarious world.(Parents, I'm being nice for the sake of our children.)

What Happens To A Child Who Doesn't Read?

Image of Mark Twain from Creative Commons

"A person who doesn't read is no better off than a person who can't read."

          - Mark Twain

Decisions: The Next Steps

Here are some reading comprehension guidelines that I've developed from personal experience and more than 25 years of teaching literature and reading.

Whether you homeschool or your child still attends the publics, you need to know how well she understands what she reads, so I've created a plan that you can apply at home to improve her reading comprehension skills.

  • Third, choose a study guide and work through the book with her.
  • Fourth, buy a small notebook in which to keep all her vocabulary, notes, essays and answers.
  • Fifth, repeat this process with at least four books a year - two in the fall and two in the spring.
  • Sixth, when she's not reading to build comprehension, she should continue reading for pleasure. 
  • Seventh, turn off the TV. (Of course, if you've performed the first six steps, that's probably already happened.)

Further down the page, I'll provided a free link that will give you a reading comprehension passage to allow you to assess your child's lexile reading level.  

A Personal Story About Reading Comprehension

About 20 years ago, I started on my master's in creative writing and took a survey course in the novels of William Faulkner and Eudora Welty.

We had to read a novel each week and be prepared for discussion.

It was almost impossible for me to keep up with the reading, but I don’t quit courses that I’ve paid for (and that’s all of them), so I was stuck.

I slugged through the pages of the first book, Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. I figured I knew enough of the storyline to fake it through the class discussion.

As long as I responded to a couple of questions and made an observant comment here or there, the professor wouldn't be the wiser. 

It was a good game plan, but there also was a woman in that class named Karen Blystone who changed it. (Yes, that’s her real name, and I don’t think I ever thanked her or even spoke to her.) Thank you, Karen. 

I’d never met anyone like her before. She gathered and gleaned, and inferred bits from the pages we read that I never even noticed. 

At first, I thought that I had just read too fast and assumed that she had more time to read carefully, and that's why she had greater reading comprehension than I did.

After listening to her, I could tell that she was a much better reader than me.

She commented on literary allusions, metaphors, and motifs that I not only didn't catch, but had missed completely.

By the end of that second class,  I won't say I was aghast, but I knew  that I was lacking in a wide range of reading comprehension skills that I wished I had. 

So I decided that instead of faking it in class, I would open my notebook and when she talked, I would write down the page numbers, context words, and her comments. After class I would go home and reread the passages discussed, but this time with her notes.

To make a long story short, by the end of the semester, I understood the novels better and had begun to notice a few more clues for myself. I also reevaluated my schedule to free up more time for reading. 

But that was only the first improvement. I didn’t notice the real improvement in my reading until a semester later when the passages seemed to unfold more easily for me.

Reading Comprehension Happens Like Magic, Sorta

I know that this sounds silly, but it was like magic. One day I was reading a novel, and I remember pausing and thinking, “Wow, what is this? I’ve never read like this before.” I noticed words and literary clues that I know I’d passed over before. The characters seemed more alive to me. 

That's what "improving your reading comprehension" is all about. 

So this is my point.

Without the push of reading quality literature; that is, stories filled with vivid imagery and literary technique, I would not have broken through to a new level of reading comprehension. This is what is lacking in schools and society today -- time for reading, reflecting about reading, discussing 

Children must take the time to read books- from beginning to end- and as soon as they finish one, they must start another. 

Visit My Other Reading Pages

Click on this link to see how I used the Snowden saga to improve my sons' Socratic thinking skills. 

Click on this link to determine your child's reading comprehension and lexile level, 

Click on this link to review  more phonics information and guidelines for your child.


Project Gutenberg 

Interactive Literary Handbook by Glencoe  (Personal note: This is a remarkable free tool.)

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