How can you tell if your child is struggling with reading comprehension?

How can you tell if your child is struggling with reading comprehension?

How can you tell if your child is struggling with reading comprehension?

Parental support in helping kids learn to read is crucial. You can give your kids the encouragement to keep going and the books to inspire them. Your time spent listening to them read is some of the most educationally significant input you can have.

Helping them progress is important, and so is spotting difficulties.

Kids can struggle with reading comprehension because the effort it takes to translate the letters into spoken words, such as applying their phonics knowledge, doesn't leave them with the capacity to decode and retain the word's meaning.

When you listen to your children read, don't only assess whether they can turn a written word into a spoken word — notice whether they can understand it. Reading for meaning or comprehension is vital, but it can lag kids' ability to decode letters into words.

What are the signs of struggling with reading comprehension?

Kids who don't retain or decode the meaning of what they read struggle to summarise stories.

Not remembering a story's characters, plot, or settings is a good indicator of reading comprehension difficulties.

Ask your kids to summarise what happened in the story so far. Depending on your child's age and current level, you might pause after each paragraph, page, or chapter.

Being uninterested in books and reading.

Kids who can't absorb the stories will find books unappealing. For them, they are only saying words out loud.

This shouldn't be your only indicator as some kids don't enjoy reading for other reasons. You should still try to encourage a love of books.

Only limited understanding

There are multiple layers in extracting meaning from text. Describing an object from a simple description is a more fundamental level of comprehension. Older kids need to be able to infer meanings.

For example, kids with higher level comprehension could describe a character's mood when a text doesn't state it but hints at it through the character's actions and responses.

Ask kids questions about things in the story that the author does not state literally but that you can infer from the descriptions.

Inability to predict

It is impossible to make sensible or realistic predictions about what might happen in a story where kids don't understand what has happened.

Pause at convenient places in the story and ask kids to predict what might happen next or even in the long run.


Comprehension varies with the complexity of the text, so monitoring your child's reading comprehension is ongoing. Your kids' ability to learn independently relies on their comprehension of complex and detailed information from text.

Ensure you challenge your children to move on in the complexity of the books they read. Use suggested reading ages or other ways of determining a book's suitability for kids. Don't be held back by them, though. If kids want to move on to more advanced books and seem to thrive, let them.

If you are concerned about your child's progress in reading and feel it might be due to something like ADHD or dyslexia, discuss it with your child's teacher or other professional. If there are no underlying causes the best thing to do is keep practising with your child.

Give your kids plenty of choice about what to read. Listen to them read. Engage them in conversation about the stories.

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