Improving Reading Comprehension

Improving reading comprehension skills in children is a vital aspect of their overall academic development and future success. Proficient reading comprehension not only enables children to understand and interpret written information effectively but also empowers them to engage with the world around them, think critically, and communicate their thoughts and ideas with confidence. By fostering a love for reading and implementing targeted strategies and techniques, educators and parents can provide children with the necessary tools to enhance their comprehension abilities, expand their vocabulary, and cultivate a lifelong passion for learning through the written word. Read on to learn about a research backed strategy of improving comprehension skills.

Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR)

Improving Reading Comprehension  CSR is a research-based teaching method developed by Janette K. Klingner and Sharon Vaughn that enhances content area learning by teaching reading comprehension to students while working in small cooperative groups. The method was developed to work with academic-like text, but it can be modified for narrative or story based texts as well. CSR has four strategies for improving reading comprehension: (1) preview the text, (2) click and clunk, (3) get the gist, and (4) wrap up. These strategies are implemented before, during, and after reading. Let’s discuss each strategy as seen on Edutopia and how they can be adjusted for reading in more informal settings.

Before Reading

Step 1: Preview The Text

Students preview the whole passage before reading its sections. Previewing the text activates prior knowledge, stimulates students’ interest about the topic, and facilitates making predictions. During this step, students look at headings, key words, pictures, and charts in a short period of time. The teacher asks students some questions to engage them in a classroom discussion about what they learned from the previews. Also, the teacher encourages students to predict what they think they will learn from reading.

What You Can Do for Step 1

Before starting a new storybook, you can introduce the book to the child. Read the title, look at the illustrations, and any words you want to point out. Engage the child in a conversation – what do they think about the book? What do they think the book will be about? What do they think they might learn or feel from the story? Of course, you can preview the book yourself before they look at it, too! 


During Reading

Step 2: Click (I Get It) & Clunk (I Do Not Get It)

Students monitor their understanding and decide if they really understand what they read or not during reading. When students read a passage with understanding, they proceed smoothly through the text. When students find a word, concept, or idea hard to understand, it is a clunk. Clunks break down reading comprehension and make it hard to understand the whole text. In this case, students need to identify the clunks then figure them out using fix- up strategies, written on clunk cards, to understand the text.

What You Can Do for Step 2

Encourage your child to recognize and vocalize when they understand something (Clicks) and when they don’t (Clunks) as they read or are read to. This is an important step to improving reading comprehension skills! Reinforce their Clicks with praise! Reinforce the Clunks with praise for acknowledging it and then get to breaking it down with them. There are different ways you can do that. Reread the sentence. If it’s a problematic word, reread the sentence without the word to see if they can decipher the meaning. They can try breaking down the word. Whatever approach helps turn that Clunk into a Click. The idea is to get to a point where they feel comfortable with the text!

Step 3: Get The Gist

Students learn to identify the most important idea(s) in the text during reading. This strategy teaches students to use their own words to explain the main ideas of every paragraph or two using a few words to check for understanding.

What You Can Do for Step 3

Once you read a paragraph, section, or a chapter you can stop and ask the child what they think is important (person, place, thing) and what is standing out to them. Typically in this step the summary is written down, but in a more informal reading environment it is convenient for it to remain conversational.

After Reading

Step 4: Wrapping Up

After reading, students identify the most important ideas from the entire section they have read. They generate questions and answers about the information in the text. Encourage students to create high order thinking questions and write down the most important information in the text.

What You Can Do for Step 4

Once the story is completed you can do a ‘wrap up’ exercise by asking the child what they think or feel about the text. What are some interesting or important takeaways of the text? Would they change anything about the text? Here is where you can allow the child to express their own ideas and reactions to the text. This not only helps give some finality to the reading exercise, but also, helps to bolster their self-concept and self-esteem. They will learn that their own thoughts and feelings are valued!

Although CSR was created to be used in a classroom setting alongside other students, you can see how adding some structure to your reading time at home can improve reading comprehension. Additionally, introducing a structure like this in a more relaxed setting will set the stage for what they will experience in a classroom. Maybe your quiet little introvert won’t feel too intimidated by the steps of CSR in the classroom! They may just raise their hands and voices even more! Who doesn’t want to set them up for success this way!

Steady Access to Books

The prologue to all of this of course, is for children to have consistent access to new reading materials at home. None of this would work without that! Children who experience more routine parent-child reading in early childhood exhibit higher reading interest and skills in later childhood and adolescence. Visit your local library, bookstore, or sign up for a book subscription service like Little Fun Club. Our subscription gives your access to 2-3 new books delivered to your door each month. You can set it up and we do the book selection based on your child’s reading level and preferences and mail it right to your doorstep! One of the first steps to improving your child’s reading comprehension skills can be just a few clicks away!

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