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Build Comprehension + Critical Thinking Skills When Reading with Your Child

Is there a right way to read with your child? Our literacy experts have devised an easy, at home system for building reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Many parents ask me how they can improve reading comprehension with their child. While the most effective strategy is a 1-to-1 multisensory intervention, there are some ways to strengthen those skills at home with no money or travel involved.


Follow these steps to improve comprehension and critical thinking.

1. Read it

It's as simple as that! When parents and children read aloud together, it can help for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it motives both parties to read more frequently. It can become a fun evening ritual that your children actually look forward to! Most importantly, it allows children to hear the story as they read it aloud. Studies show that children recall information better when the language cycle is completed by both saying and hearing the words simultaneously.

2. Picture it

When your child is reading, its important to talk with him/her about what they "pictured." Think of picturing as what you and your kids imagine when you read. For example, if you read a story about a "mad scientist" you likely imagined a man wearing a lab coat with glasses or facial hair standing in a lab of sorts with test tubes or a clipboard. This imagined picture is the source of comprehension. Take your time to build your own images and encourage your children to do the same. If you stop every page or so to describe your pictures, you'll notice a drastic increase in comprehension and understanding.

3. Question it

Critical thinking and a deeper understanding are strengthened through questioning. Rather than asking your children detail-oriented questions such as "what was the cat's name?" ask questions that promote higher order thinking such as "Why?" or "How." This will allow your child to relate the information to previous knowledge or experiences, building more powerful connections in the brain. Here are some open-ended questions to get you started:

Why do think the character did that?

What do you think will happen next?

Has that ever happened to you? Tell me about it.

What was your favorite part? Why?

4. Log it

Reading logs are a great way to build long-term retention and comprehension. After a reading session, have your song/daughter write a brief summary of what they read. Even 1-2 sentences can make a difference. I find it easiest to reserve a notebook or journal for these summaries. Let your child pick one out at the store as a fun motivation tool or just use plain sheets of paper if need-be. So long as they are keeping a log, you'll see some great results on their recall and overall understanding.

5. Reinforce it

Consistency and encouragement are the number one factor related to reading comprehension and critical thinking. Make a routine and stick to it! Even just 2-3 nights of shared reading a week will help your child develop these important skills. The more you discuss picturing and ask open-ended questions, the stronger these skills will become. Read it. Picture it. Question it. Log it. Then reinforce it with praise, rewards, and consistency.


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