Ask Powerful Questions
What are you discovering?
What do you notice?
What do you wonder?
Is this helping you as a reader?
What do you see?
What makes you say that?
Read Short Segments Your child’s reading comprehension will increase if you break down the story into small segments and then discuss what happened before continuing the story. Read one or two pages, stop, and talk about what has happened so far. Discuss questions such as:
- Who are the characters in this story?
- Where does this story take place?
- What do you think might happen next?
As your child thinks about and responds to these questions, he or she becomes more engaged in the story, taking an interest in the characters and what happens to them. Also while reading the short segments, ask questions about a previous segment and repeat some of the questions already answered. This helps cement retention in your child’s mind.
At first, it’s okay if you get through only a small portion of the story or if your child has difficulty remembering details. Reading comprehension is a skill that is built slowly. Focus on gradual building of comprehension rather than instant improvement.
Create a "Movie in your Head" Practice helping kids create a "movie in their head" while they are reading. Teaching students how to visualize what they are reading will help with comprehension. Ask about what they are visualizing and encourage students to explain the details about what they are picturing in their head. See if they can explain the details to help you create the same picture in your head. Ask questions like: "What do you see?" "What does that look like?" "Tell me more about the details?" "What is in the background?" "How big?" "Where are they?" "What is the mood?" "What colors do you see?"
Relate Story to Real Life Are you read a story, ask questions related to the plot such as, “Does this remind you of something?” or “Have you ever felt that way?” or “Have you ever gone to a place like that? What did you do when you were there?” When your child connects what’s happened in the story to his or her life, details are easier to understand and recall. This skill strengthens over time as your child practices it more and more.
Use All Five Senses for Reinforcement Increasing reading comprehension involves more than just reading text. Oftentimes, children with special needs learn best if they use more than one sense at a time. Listening to an audio CD of the book while following along on the written page gives children both the ability to “see” the text and to “hear” it at the same time. If a book is also available on DVD, your child may benefit from acting out the story along with the characters on the screen, or acting out some scenes in the story immediately after they’ve been read.
Use Art to Reinforce Plot Making construction paper cutouts of scenes from the book, coloring pictures that depict events in the plot, or making figures out of clay or play-dough also aid comprehension while also being very enjoyable. Such exercises are more concrete than simply reading about what happens to the characters.
Repeat Repetition is one of the most important ways to help your special-needs child increase reading comprehension. Whether that means reading the same story every night and/or simply going back within the story and rereading a certain segment to clarify what’s happening, repetition is key. Repetition increases comprehension, both when your child is read to (and allowed to follow along) and when he or she reads to you. Not only does this establish the plot in your child’s mind, but the words used in a particular story become more familiar, too. Finally, doing this “story repetition” at least in part at night before your child goes to sleep is a great way to increase retention. Research has shown that “sleeping on” information encourages retention.