Sometimes it can be hard to tell if your child is reading at the right level. If they’re not, it can cause frustration with reading, delaying their skill development or their desire and ability to read altogether.
Former elementary school teacher MK Mutzbauer, who holds a masters degree in special education, understands this challenge—and how to overcome it.
She sat down with us to talk about reading comprehension at the 3rd- and 4th-grade level.
Below, she explains how to tell if your child is reading books that are at the right reading level for them, what to do if they’re not, and how you can support their reading development at home.
You’ve worked with 8- to 10-year-olds, and at that reading level, one of the skills they’re working on is comprehension. What are some questions that parents can ask their kids to see if they’re comprehending their books?
You can say things like, “Explain to me what you’re reading, tell me about the characters, tell me what is happening.” Ask about the main characters and their traits, the setting, and the main problem in the book and how they might solve it or how they think it will be solved.
Prediction is a big one—have them predict what’s going to happen. For example, maybe the characters are going to a haunted house. You can ask, “What do you think’s going to happen in that haunted house?” Let them predict things, because they’ll be excited to find out if what they predict is going to happen.
Talk to them about the characters, maybe relating them to people they know by asking, “Does that character remind you of anybody in our family or any of your friends? Why? How are they similar? How are they different?” They have to make a connection to their life somehow with that book to understand it. And they need to read at their interest level and age level—or lower—for them to really comprehend that book.
If a parent feels like their child isn’t comprehending their books, what is a good solution?
A lot of things can be solved by rereading together to make sure they understand. Or you can read it back to them and see what they think about the characters, and if they might think a character is totally different than what the character actually is. If you see these differences, help them to understand by discussing it. You can say things like “Well, how did you see this? When we reread it together, I see it this way.” As adults, we have more life experience, so sometimes it could even just be helping them by explaining certain things they haven’t had experience with yet.
If a parent doesn’t have time to read 30 minutes per day with their kid, are there any other ways they can evaluate the child’s reading comprehension, and intervene if they don’t?
Sure. Let them read aloud to you on the way to school in the car, or let them listen to audiobooks, and that way you can discuss it. You could even have them read along with the book while the audiobook is playing. The main thing is to get them to read something they’re interested in.
At this age level, they’re starting to have strong opinions, comprehend books, and really think critically about them. Do you see a big impact when a kid has the opportunity to choose books for themselves?
Oh yeah, they are 100% invested in the book if it’s about something they’re interested in, and they’re going to want any and all information they can get about that topic, whether it’s dinosaurs, sports, or anything else. I would say their interest level is the main thing for getting them interested in reading.
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