PGCPS LogoPrince George's County Public Schools
  • Reading Corner

    The Literacy Corner

    Reading Comprehension Tips For Parents – Strategies You Can Use At Home 

    Parents are their child’s first and most important teacher. It’s almost impossible to overestimate the tremendous impact parents have on their child’s reading success. Throughout the first years of school, teachers are helping your child develop reading skills that will enable him or her to become a proficient reader. But make no mistake, learning to read takes practice, practice and more practice–much more than a child can get during a school day.


    You can provide reading opportunities and extra guidance at home by simply implementing the simple activities and tips you find on this page. They are sure to help your child with reading comprehension regardless of what skill level they are currently at. Equally important, they will help foster a love for reading.


    The good news is that teaching reading comprehension strategies are really second nature to parents. For example, when a mother says something like, “Jenny, tell your dad what we did at the zoo today,” that builds a foundation for understanding how narratives work. While it would be great if all instructional techniques where this intuitive, most parents need a little nudge in the right direction. Here are four strategies and tips straight from the classroom that you can use at home.

    Lay a strong foundation for reading success

    If you were going to reupholster your sofa, you wouldn’t just choose a bolt of fabric, buy a staple gun and then get to work. You would do a little planning first. That would involve learning about all the materials and tools you need to do a proper job. You may even decide to take of course in upholstery. The point is you would educate yourself by gathering all the information and training needed before you get started.


    Helping your child develop good reading comprehension skills involves the same type of planning. In other words, you need to give them the tools they need to apply to whatever kind of book you’re reading together.


    Before reading a book about ocean life, for example, first talk to your child about how fish are different from mammals and have to live in a water environment. Preview the text to find unfamiliar words like “gills” and “vertebrate” and explain them before you start reading. Talk about the fish you may have seen in a pet store or at the beach. You can even go the extra mile and take your child to the local aquarium. Does this sound a little extreme? Not at all – teachers do it all the time! Just trust that these steps will go along way in comprehension development.

    More reading time and less TV time

    Studies show that children are exposed to a larger variety of words in children’s books that are read to them than from what they hear on prime time TV. That means anything you read to them will enlarge their vocabulary much more than the conversational dribble heard on television.


    Remember that your child’s listening vocabulary is much larger than her reading vocabulary. When you read books that are interesting to her, both reading and writing vocabularies increase. That’s because if she has heard a word before in context, then when it’s presented in the classroom she’ll be able to recognize it with greater comprehension.

    Reading aloud and thinking aloud

    Good readers unconsciously create visual images in their heads while they are reading. It’s all part of the comprehension process. While you are reading to your child, think out loud about the images you see or the questions that may arise. That means explaining the ideas, pictures, questions, and connections that go through your mind as you read a passage. Here’s an example of a think aloud:


    The title of this book is Bobby: The Bravest Boxer. There is a picture of a dog on the cover so that tells me Bobby is a boxer dog instead of a man that boxes. I wonder what the dog did that proved his bravery. I need to read ahead and find out. Oh, on the next page it says, “Bobby got very nervous when the children were playing outside all alone, especially if they are near the street.” That tells me that Bobby may do something to protect one of the children in the family. But how? I have to read on to find out more.

    Let your child be the teacher

    Most all children jump at the opportunity to play a little role reversal. As you and your child are reading, take turns coming up with questions, making predictions, and summarizing. You be the student and let your son or daughter be the teacher. Children love being able to say things like “Dad, tell me what you think will happen next!”

    Keep it interesting and relevant

    One of the most important things parents can do is to provide reading material that is interesting and relevant. Nothing turns a child off reading like boring content. If your reader is a young boy make sure he has access to scary stories, sports books, or science fiction. And if your girl likes those things as well, make sure she has them in addition to stories about animals, fairytales, and babysitting clubs.


    By consistently using these reading comprehension tips and strategies you’ll provide a learning environment that will accelerate your child’s reading comprehension development. Not only that, you’ll form a parent – child bond that will serve your child well as he or she meets the challenges of school years and beyond.

    Ways to increase reading stamina in your small children. 

    1. Read regularly. Include reading in your nap and bedtime routines or at points throughout the day when you need a calming influence.

    2. Change it up. Read different types of books, and rotate which parents read. This helps children get used to hearing different voices, different inflections, different accents (my accent is Southern and my husband’s is Australian, ha), and different types of plots.

    3. Don’t get too advanced. While it’s good to challenge and stretch, reading books that are too advanced will make it difficult for your child to comprehend the story and they’ll lose focus as a result. This could also be discouraging depending on your child’s personality.

    4. Push through. If your toddler wants to quit after only a few pages, push a little further to read more. Don’t push so far they are turned off by reading, but enough to keep moving forward.

    5. Note their interests. My 22 month old won’t read a Tractor Mac book for too long, but he’ll sit and read a Thomas the Tank Engine book for 20 minutes.

    6. Don’t show frustration. Try your best to not get frustrated or angry if they don’t want to sit still and pay attention. See it as a long-term goal that you’re working towards step by step.

    11 Ways Parents Can Help Their Children Read

    September 9, 2015

    Timothy Shanahan 

    1. Teaching reading will only help.Sometimes, parents are told early teaching is harmful, but it isn’t true. You simply can’t introduce literacy too early. I started reading to my own children on the days they were each born! The “dangers of early teaching” has been a topic of study for more than 100 years, and no one has ever found any convincing evidence of harm. Moreover, there are hundreds of studies showing the benefits of reading to your children when they are young.

    2. Teaching literacy isn’t different than teaching other skills. You don’t need a Ph.D. to raise a happy, healthy, smart child. Parents have been doing it for thousands of years. Mothers and fathers successfully teach their kids to eat with a spoon, use a potty, keep their fingers out of their noses, and say “please.” These things can be taught pleasantly, or they can be made into a painful chore. Being unpleasant (e.g. yelling, punishing, pressuring) doesn’t work, and it can be frustrating for everyone. This notion applies to teaching literacy, too. If you show your 18-month-old a book and she shows no interest, then put it away and come back to it later. If your child tries to write her name and ends up with a backwards “D,” no problem. No pressure. No hassle. You should enjoy the journey, and so should your child.

    3. Talk to your kids (a lot). Last year, I spent lots of time with our brand new granddaughter, Emily. I drowned her in language. Although “just a baby,” I talked — and sang — to her about everything. I talked about her eyes, nose, ears, mouth, and fingers. I told her all about her family — her mom, dad, and older brother. I talked to her about whatever she did (yawning, sleeping, eating, burping). I talked to her so much that her parents thought I was nuts; she couldn’t possibly understand me yet. But reading is a language activity, and if you want to learn language, you’d better hear it, and eventually, speak it. Too many moms and dads feel a bit dopey talking to a baby or young child, but studies have shown that exposing your child to a variety of words helps in her development of literacy skills.

    4. Read to your kids. I know everyone says this, but it really is a good idea — at least with preschoolers. One of my colleagues refers to this advice as the “chicken soup” of reading education. We prescribe it for everything. (Does it help? It couldn’t hurt.) If a parent or caregiver can’t read or can’t read English, there are alternatives, such as using audiobooks; but for those who can, reading a book or story to a child is a great, easy way to advance literacy skills. Research shows benefits for kids as young as 9-months-old, and it could be effective even earlier than that. Reading to kids exposes them to richer vocabulary than they usually hear from the adults who speak to them, and can have positive impacts on their language, intelligence, and later literacy achievement. What should you read to them? There are so many wonderful children’s books. Visit your local library, and you can get an armful of adventure. You can find recommendations from kids at the Children’s Book Council website or at the International Literacy Association Children's Choices site. [Reading Rockets also provides guidance and lots of themed booklists in our Children's Books & Authors section.]

    5. Have them tell you a “story.” One great way to introduce kids to literacy is to take their dictation. Have them recount an experience or make up a story. We’re not talking “Moby Dick” here. A typical first story may be something like, “I like fish. I like my sister. I like grandpa.” Write it as it is being told, and then read it aloud. Point at the words when you read them, or point at them when your child is trying to read the story. Over time, with lots of rereading, don’t be surprised if your child starts to recognize words such as “I” or “like.” (As children learn some of the words, you can write them on cards and keep them in a “word bank” for your child, using them to review later.)

    6. Teach phonemic awareness. Young children don’t hear the sounds within words. Thus, they hear “dog,” but not the “duh”-“aw”- “guh.” To become readers, they have to learn to hear these sounds (or phonemes). Play language games with your child. For instance, say a word, perhaps her name, and then change it by one phoneme: Jen-Pen, Jen-Hen, Jen-Men. Or, just break a word apart: chair… ch-ch-ch-air. Follow this link to learn more about language development milestones in children.

    7. Teach phonics (letter names and their sounds). You can’t sound out words or write them without knowing the letter sounds. Most kindergartens teach the letters, and parents can teach them, too. I just checked a toy store website and found 282 products based on letter names and another 88 on letter sounds, including ABC books, charts, cards, blocks, magnet letters, floor mats, puzzles, lampshades, bed sheets, and programs for tablets and computers. You don’t need all of that (a pencil and paper are sufficient), but there is lots of support out there for parents to help kids learn these skills. Keep the lessons brief and fun, no more than 5–10 minutes for young’uns. Understanding the different developmental stages of reading and writing skills will help to guide your lessons and expectations.

    8. Listen to your child read. When your child starts bringing books home from school, have her read to you. If it doesn’t sound good (mistakes, choppy reading), have her read it again. Or read it to her, and then have her try to read it herself. Studies show that this kind of repeated oral reading makes students better readers, even when it is done at home.

    9. Promote writing. Literacy involves reading and writing. Having books and magazines available for your child is a good idea, but it’s also helpful to have pencils, crayons, markers, and paper. Encourage your child to write. One way to do this is to write notes or short letters to her. It won’t be long before she is trying to write back to you.

    10. Ask questions. When your child reads, get her to retell the story or information. If it’s a story, ask who it was about and what happened. If it’s an informational text, have your child explain what it was about and how it worked, or what its parts were. Reading involves not just sounding out words, but thinking about and remembering ideas and events. Improving reading comprehension skills early will prepare her for subsequent success in more difficult texts.

    11. Make reading a regular activity in your home. Make reading a part of your daily life, and kids will learn to love it. When I was nine years old, my mom made me stay in for a half-hour after lunch to read. She took me to the library to get books to kick off this new part of my life. It made me a lifelong reader. Set aside some time when everyone turns off the TV and the web and does nothing but read. Make it fun, too. When my children finished reading a book that had been made into a film, we’d make popcorn and watch the movie together. The point is to make reading a regular enjoyable part of your family routine.