Reading Skills: Comprehension

Have you ever tried to tell someone something and they totally misunderstood what you said? That can be so frustrating! Communication just doesn’t work if you are not understood.

That is why the skill of comprehension is so important in reading. We typically test reading by asking questions to find out how well a reader understood and correctly interpreted the words they just read. Comprehension involves making connections between what was read and the reader’s life experiences. Background knowledge can be a key factor as anything we read on an unfamiliar topic will not make as much sense. As readers mature comprehension also involves critical thinking skills such as making inferences, asking questions and visualizing.  This Reading Mama has a great post that explains some basic comprehension strategies.

Tips for Building Reading Comprehension

Think Alouds

Think Alouds” is a comprehension technique where you talk through your thoughts as you read. I love this technique of posing “think aloud” questions while reading aloud with a reader to help them make connections from the story to other books or their own lives. For example, while reading Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe someone might comment, “You know, this story reminds me a lot of the Cinderella story. Both stories are about sisters. Can we think of any other stories about nice or mean sisters?”

Discussion Questions for Critical Thinking

Reading time can be used to build critical thinking, which Reading Rockets defines as “the ability to think deeply about a topic or a book.”  The article suggests discussion questions to use with school-aged readers, such as:

  • What can we tell about this character’s personality based on the way they are acting?
  • How might the setting of this book be important to what it is trying to say?
  • What conflict(s) do you see in the plot of this book?

Remember these types of questions have more than one good answer.

Making Predictions & Other Strategies

The book Babe: The Gallant Pig by Dick King-Smith is about a pig who wants to herd sheep like a dog. It’s is a great book to read aloud with school-aged children. The story can lead to discussion about what it means to be “gallant,” how we react when people do things we don’t expect, and the way Babe herded sheep versus the way the dogs did it.  Readers can also watch the movie and then talk about what is the same and what is different in the book and the movie.

For a really in depth look at comprehension, look at the Reading Comprehension series by This Reading Mama. I love that she has created a book list with more than 50 books that go along with different comprehension strategies. For example, the book list for “making predictions” includes the classic Doctor De Soto by William Steig. This book is good for making predictions because it keeps readers guessing. Will the fox eat Dr. De Soto? What does Dr. De Soto put on his teeth? Asking questions like these and seeing if your predictions come true or not can make reading more fun and help build comprehension skills.

Happy reading everyone!

Deborah Ellerbrook

Some of my many roles at the library include: tax form guru, collectibles promoter, inspirational fiction evangelist, adult literacy promoter, Book Group in a Bag cheerleader, So Many Books book discussion group leader and reader's advisor.