November 25, 2019

The Need to Read: Essential Reading Comprehension Skills

Reading involves more than recognizing words. Teach your child to understand written material.

Reading is the foundation for almost every other academic subject, making early childhood literacy an important part of paving the path for your child’s future success. Children don’t simply “learn to read” — they memorize the alphabet, they associate letters with sounds, they learn to decode words, and they discover how different letters sound when paired together. Then they build upon those skills to improve context and comprehension.

Learning how to read is a complex process that involves mastering many different skills. If a child has difficulty mastering any those skills they may have trouble comprehending what they read.

Help your child learn to read and understand what they’ve read by emphasizing skills that contribute to early childhood literacy.

What is reading comprehension

Reading comprehension involves reading the words, but understanding their meaning. In addition, recognizing the differences between characters, the timeline of a story, and the intricacies of a plot are all key elements of reading comprehension

There are various levels of reading comprehension, including literal, interpretive, creative, and critical.

●      Literal: Understanding literal information contained within the text, such as instructions or directions. Students should be able to answer basic, fact-based questions about the material after reading.

  • Interpretive: Seeking a deeper meaning from the material and asking questions to determine things such as the main idea of the story, the author’s purpose, its point-of-view, and the summary of the plot
  • Creative: Using your own judgment or perspective based upon the author’s writing, or coming up with opinions or solutions based on the material read.
  • Critical: Fact-checking information or questioning the veracity of a source or statement. Critical comprehension involves reading, thinking, and drawing your own conclusions on the merit of the material.

Skills to help reading comprehension

Help your child improve their reading comprehension by working on the following skills:


Decoding is essential to the actual act of reading. Decoding is more often recognized as “sounding it out” or using phonemic awareness to hear the individual sounds in words. Rhyming, counting syllables, or recognizing the first letter in a word based on its sound are all good practice for decoding.


The ability to read fluently is critical to comprehension. Fluency requires students to recognize words instantly and to be able to read sentences without stopping to decode each word. A child who can read with inflection and without pausing demonstrates fluency. The best way to develop fluency is to practice frequently and work on memorizing sight words.


Understanding what you’ve read requires knowing the meaning of most of the words in a sentence. Strong vocabulary has a positive impact on reading comprehension. Use a wide variety of words in conversations with your child so they become familiar with vocabulary through context, and stop to define words as you read stories together.


Retaining and evaluating information involves two executive functions: working memory and attention. Attention involves their patience and commitment to the actual act of reading. The best way to improve a child’s attention is to find reading material that interests them — experiment with different genres, authors, or even graphic novels or comic books to discover what they are naturally drawn to.

Working memory requires storing that information from a text and deriving meaning from it. Help your child improve their memory skills by playing games or doing activities that involve remembering information.

World experience

Familiarity with subject matter makes comprehension easier. Create awareness around emotions, history, current events, geography, and the world we live in by explaining topics to your child. Don’t assume they won’t be interested or don’t have the ability to understand. Encourage your child’s curiosity and improve their contextual awareness by exposing them to as much information as possible on an ongoing basis.

Sentence structure

Although sentence structure is technically a writing skill, reading and writing are closely connected. Understanding how sentences are composed facilitates reading comprehension. Children will begin to learn sentence structure through exposure to a variety of writing types, and a more formal introduction will happen in school.

Learning to actually enjoy reading is the absolute best way to master reading comprehension. Being able to recognize words, read fluently, understand context, and draw your own opinions and conclusions can lead to a true understanding of the material and a lifetime love of literacy. Support your child’s reading efforts by providing an environment that encourages and appreciates the act of reading.

Lumiere Children’s Therapy is a full service, multidisciplinary pediatric therapy practice located in Chicago that serves the developmental needs of children from birth to 18 years of age. Learn more about how our team of clinicians can help improve your child develop writing and other essential life skills.

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