Reading Comprehension is the Key to Bedtime Stories

How to raise successful, independent readers

How to raise successful and independent readers

Reading without comprehension is like eating without swallowing - you taste the food, but your body doesn't benefit from any of the nutrients it provides.

For this reason, it is important that parents not only practice reading skills, but also focus on comprehension. To accomplish this, parents need to focus on specific skills before, during and after the reading session.

What Parents Need to Know

Reading comprehension skills are important at every age. Before children are taught to read they learn to connect spoken words with their meaning. As they later develop into accurate, fluent readers they read to learn and for personal enjoyment.

"Success in reading is more than just being able to identify letters and words - a child needs to understand what he is reading," said Angela Zapparvigna, former director of Sylvan Learning Center in White Plains.

"If a child is unable to comprehend what he has read, he's going to experience feelings of frustration and disappointment and will avoid reading altogether. And a child who experiences difficulties with reading comprehension will ultimately have problems in other subjects as well."

What Parents Can Do

Fortunately, parents can nurture and build comprehension by making each reading experience an active one. Parents can help improve their child's comprehension by reading with them 10-15 minutes each day-one hour per week-and discussing what they've read. A competent reader will find the meaning in what he has read or heard, remember details about the story and be able to retell it.

To help children become fluent and reflective readers, the experts at Sylvan Learning Center offer tips to help parents nurture comprehension before, during and after the reading process:

Before Reading

• For younger children, take a "picture walk." Point to the pictures in the book and discuss what is happening in the pictures and what she thinks the story will be about.

• For older children, preview the text before starting to read more complex material. Skim the material quickly for its general contents, length, structure of the text and type of information.

• Determine the purpose for reading the material and what should be learned or remembered by reading it.

• Examine the layout of the material including the title, heading, subheadings, photos, figures or graphs, captions and how the information is divided into paragraphs and sections.

• Help him make a connection between what he will be reading and what he already knows.

• Review homework or assigned questions prior to beginning reading. Have your child ask herself the following questions: What will I need to know after I am done reading? What questions will I need to answer when I'm finished reading?

During Reading

• Stop frequently throughout the story to discuss what is happening and what she thinks will happen next. This is a great way to test your child's reading comprehension.

• Have him try to predict future ideas and questions. Ask what clues helped him make that prediction.

• Encourage her to ask about words or parts of the story that are difficult for her to understand.

• For longer texts or chapters, encourage your child to take notes, underline or highlight important sentences or phrases.

• Encourage her to visualize the story as it unfolds.

• After completing each paragraph or section, write a brief summary or outline of important information.

• Write down any questions while reading, and take notes on the answers to questions that need to be answered for homework assignments.

• Look up any unfamiliar words while reading. This helps improve her vocabulary and understanding of the material.

• Think back to early ideas about the text. Have they changed or stayed the same?

• If your child is reading alone, suggest rereading any confusing sections aloud or at a slower pace.

After Reading

• Discuss any questions he has about the story.

• Younger children should be able to answer questions and discuss the plot line and characters in the story. Ask her which characters she liked the most or have her identify her favorite part of the story.

• Help him compare the story line to his own life or other books or movies.

• Summarize and review the important ideas of the text. She should be able to determine what's important and what's not.

• Take time to think about what he knew before the reading and what he learned.

• Ask questions about the story from the perspective of another character.

• Older children can compare different books written by the same author - highlight similar themes, character traits, etc.

Sylvan offers a variety of tools for parents searching for ways to nurture their child's reading behaviors, including grade-specific tips and ideas for reading at home and helpful hints for raising enthusiastic readers. For tips visit Families also can find tips on selecting age-appropriate books by visiting Book Adventure at