Reading comprehension


Children discussing what they're readingWhat is reading comprehension?

Comprehension is simply another word for 'understanding'. At its simplest, reading comprehension is a way of talking about whether or not a child has understood what they have read.

However, teachers tend to use it to mean more than that. In 'teacher talk' comprehension includes:

  • Understanding what it says in the text
  • Understanding what it doesn't say explicitly, but what you can work out or suppose might have happened or be going to happen
  • Knowing about the organisation of ideas in a text and thinking about why the author introduced the ideas in one sequence rather than another
  • Being aware of the writer's choice of words and sentences
  • Considering what the writer wanted the reader to think, eg how does a writer show the reader that one character is evil or greedy

Why is comprehension important?

Reading comprehension is important for three main reasons:

  • First, because the more that a reader understands the text, the more meaning and enjoyment they can gain from it.
  • Second, reading is the means through which most of the curriculum is taught as children grow older. If children do not fully understand what they read, they cannot access the whole curriculum and this will affect their results. (For example, GCSE History students may need to recognise whether or not a piece of writing has any political bias.)
  • Third, the more children understand the craft of the writer, the more they can improve their own writing.

How can I help develop my child's reading comprehension?

Reading to and with your child, as well as talking about what you have read, is the most important and useful way of developing reading comprehension.

However, it is possible to develop skills for reading comprehension away from the printed page.

  • Watch TV together and talk about what you notice. For example, talk about the information an advert has or hasn't included so that your child understands how to ask this kind of question.
  • Look at paintings and talk about what the artist may not have chosen to paint.
  • Ask questions which begin with: 'Wh' ie what, why, who, when etc... What do you think is happening [to the left] of this scene? What might happen next? What might have happened before? 
  • Do cooking or craft activities, getting your child to read and follow the instructions.
  • Encourage your child to visit websites which offer opportunities to develop reading comprehension at an appropriate level.

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Last updated: about 3 years ago