Trouble with Reading Comprehension

Question: I am the mother of a fourth grader who reads very well but has a problem with comprehension. He only remembers what he reads for a few minutes after he reads it. I have spoken with his teacher, who says she doesn’t see a problem; she thinks he probably doesn’t remember because he isn’t reading something that interests him. What do you think?

— Possible Problem.

Answer: Trouble is looming on the horizon unless your son learns to remember what he has read. Before fourth grade, most reading at school involves stories that catch children’s attention. In fourth grade, however, the focus moves to reading more social studies and science textbooks and remembering these materials for assignments and tests. After that, the ability to read and remember content area materials becomes more important each year.

You can’t bank on your son being interested in every topic that he reads about in school. He is going to need to learn to engage himself with the material. It won’t do any good to just tell him to think about what he is reading. He needs to learn some new reading techniques. Fortunately, you should be able to help him do this.

Begin by working with your son on a reading assignment for social studies or science. Have him look at all the headings, pictures and illustrations on the pages before he starts to read. This will acquaint him with the material. If the book has questions or a summary at the beginning of its chapters, he should read these sections to get an early picture of the important points. Once he has done these things, have him tell you what he thinks he is going to learn from the reading assignment. You might even discuss what he already knows about the topic.

The next step is to have your son read one or more paragraphs and then tell you the “who, what, when and where” of the material he has read. Complete the assignment in this way. As your son begins to show that he knows how to interact with what he is reading, lessen the times you work with him until he is working independently.

To remember what he has read for longer periods of time, your son is going to have to get in the habit of reviewing. If he writes answers to chapter questions or questions that he has made up after reading, this review will be much simpler.

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