Although there’s been an increasing focus on comprehension in reading assessments in recent years, that doesn’t mean that parents are always familiar with exactly what it is, or how they can help at home. Here are some handy resources and simple ideas to share with parents to help them support the next stage of their children’s reading development during school closures.
1. Take the mystery out of comprehension
It’s no surprise that talking, listening and reading as often and as widely as possible are key to helping children develop the background knowledge, vocabulary, language structures and inference they need to become confident readers. Whether it acts as a reminder, or a first introduction, this accessible animation sets out what comprehension involves in simple terms, why it’s important, and includes plenty of helpful examples for parents.
2. Encourage parents to model fluent reading
By reading aloud to their children, parents can model what fluent reading sounds like, with rhythm, pauses and, of course, the chance to have some fun with the voices! It also gives children an opportunity to listen to books that they might not be able to read themselves yet, so that they see and hear adventurous language and ideas that they wouldn’t necessarily meet in their independent reading. For parents who are short of time, there are lots of stories children can listen to in the storytelling video playlist on the Oxford Owl YouTube channel.
3. Signpost questions to ask during reading
Asking a child questions can help them to think about what they’re reading, but some pointers, such as asking open questions, or prompting their child to justify their answers by referring to the text or pictures, can be helpful. You can find examples of good questions for parents to ask in this blog post.
4. Help them discover new words together
There are lots of ways to support parents with building their children’s vocabulary. Strategies that you might suggest include checking unfamiliar words by using surrounding words or other words in the sentence, or even looking up new words in a dictionary together. And of course, non-fiction is particularly good for introducing lots of new words, including useful words that are less common in speech and fiction –like consistent, definition, and indicate. Get more ideas to help parents boost their children’s vocabulary skills on Oxford Owl’s Vocabulary page.
5. Use the extra support for parents included in books
Many books, including lots of the ones available in Oxford Owl’s eBook libraries, include questions, often on their inside covers, that parents can use as prompts. There are questions to ask before, during and after reading to check children’s understanding of the book and to give parents some ideas of things to talk about with their child.
6. Encourage reading for a purpose
As well as boosting comprehension skills, reading for a purpose can come in handy for parents whose children are reluctant to engage with fiction. Instead, they can read to find information, to learn about something, or to answer questions – skills that will certainly come in handy later on! They could ask their child to read out the instructions from a recipe, thinking about whether the instructions contain any ‘typical’ words and phrases. Are they easy to follow? Newspapers and magazines are jam-packed with talking points. Are there any parts of the text are persuasive? How do they know? Parents might find these tips to help them read non-fiction with their children useful.
7. Inspire storytelling
There’s no question about the fact that retelling a story in your own words is a powerful comprehension exercise, and, thankfully, it’s lots of fun too! You could draw parents’ attention to the story maps that can be found at the back of lots of reading scheme books and you might want to share this video, which will give them lots of ideas to help them inspire their budding storyteller.
8. Make it fun!
We all want children to view reading as a leisure activity, rather than a chore, and games are a great format for comprehension activities at home. An adapted version of Guess Who can be lots of fun! Parents and children take it in turns to choose a character from the book they’ve just read. One person guesses who the other is thinking of, by asking questions that can only be answered with yes or no. There are plenty more games for parents to try, including the fun sticky-note challenge in this video.
Helpful links to share with parents:
Oxford Owl for Home’s parent guide to comprehension >
Free comprehension activities >
Ten ideas to help parents inspire their children to read more >
Comprehension activity books to support learning at home >
Want more tips to support parents with home learning? Read 8 top tips to help parents support their children with phonics.