Strengthening reading comprehension skills

Reading comprehension is the art of making meaning and extracting information from what you read, ultimately leading to gaining knowledge about a new topic. Whether you're researching, staying updated with the news, or simply trying to learn something new, reading comprehension is essential.

WORDS: Eilis Melino, Speech Pathologist

However, it’s also widely recognised as one of the most challenging aspects of reading, especially for kids. To tackle this challenge effectively, it’s crucial to bring as much prior knowledge and as many strategies as possible to the reading process.

Traditionally, teaching reading comprehension involved workbooks and texts with questions to answer silently. However, the most effective approaches to teaching it have evolved. Thanks to cognitive science, we now understand reading, particularly decoding, much better. Reading comprehension is a complex process, and simply using workbooks and worksheets isn’t sufficient. These resources tend to focus on isolated skills that may work well for one text but not for others.

Not all children with reading problems struggle with reading comprehension. Some may require focused support on decoding, essentially “cracking the code” of reading. Once these skills are mastered, they can understand texts just fine. On the other hand, some children may excel in decoding but struggle with processing and understanding texts. These difficulties may stem from underlying language issues that can be addressed by a speech pathologist. Identifying these challenges is crucial.

How can I help my child?

You might be wondering what you could do to support your child who is struggling.

  • Help your child to question the author. Encourage and use questions such as “what is the author telling me?” and “‘how come she has…” and “why did she do that?”
  • Talk about what the author’s intention might be.
  • Find out what vocabulary your teacher is focusing on from your child’s texts and use those words at home and across multiple environments so your child has repeated exposure to new vocabulary.
  • Model thinking aloud and inferring with texts. For example; “I wonder what went wrong for him on this day?”
  • Help your child to self-monitor their comprehension, and encourage them to ask themselves “did that make sense to me?”, “what parts do I need to understand better?”
  • Encourage writing alongside reading to help cement reading, this might look like writing notes in margins alongside texts, highlighting, jotting down study notes.


If you have a struggling reader, talk to a speech pathologist to find out what assessments and support they could offer with literacy and language skills.

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