Reading is the foundation of all learning. In fact, it’s often said that, from birth to third grade, children learn to read. After that, they read to learn — for the rest of their lives. Children who struggle with reading find themselves falling behind academically and losing their self-confidence. Reading comprehension skills unlock the door to a world of comprehension, introducing children to new concepts and new ideas.
Fortunately, even children who aren’t naturally inclined readers can learn through reading strategies and reading techniques. They can improve reading skills and find themselves on the pathway to academic and lifetime success.
Academic Success Benefits of Improving Reading Skills
Student reading comprehension is critical to the academic journey. Children start by learning their ABCs, and from there they learn to make sense of words on the page and build their comprehension skills.
Strong reading skills offer an array of benefits to the bookworm and struggling reader alike.
- Critical thinking and reasoning: Reading introduces children to new thoughts and concepts. The encounters force them to engage the brain in making sense of unfamiliar ideas and sorting through conflicting notions.
- Brain building: Reading exercises the brain just like workouts exercise the body. The more kids practice their reading, the better they become.
- Better grades and academic success: All that mental exercise builds the brain’s memory capacities for storing and retrieving information. Students improve because they do better on tests and in class.
- Vocabulary building: Reading introduces children to new words. Their vocabulary grows as they become comfortable with looking up definitions of unfamiliar words or phrases.
- Social and emotional engagement: Reading gives children shared experiences to talk about. Quality literature, such as Newberry Award-winning titles, exposes children to diverse characters and cultures.
Reading Tips for Students of All Ages
Any student can improve reading comprehension skills and reap the benefits, regardless of age, grade or reading level.
These reading tips and strategies can make reading more enjoyable and beneficial.
- Make reading part of your everyday life: Infuse reading into all parts of family life. Schedule quiet reading time, but be open to spontaneous reading moments, too. Encourage your child to read a restaurant menu. Ask your child to help make dinner by reading the recipe.
- Create a reading area: Give your child a say in creating a cozy reading corner. Grab a beanbag chair, or set aside a basement corner that’s all their own.
- Visit your local library: Libraries allow children to explore a whole world of reading material, perhaps finding something new that sets their imagination soaring. Watch for local library programs catering to different age groups, from infants to teens.
- Read the book, see the movie: The latest blockbuster often originated as a novel or comic. Read the book and watch the movie together, and then discuss why authors and filmmakers might have made different choices.
- Vary reading material: Think that reading bores your child? Maybe it’s the reading material that bores them. Vast choices in reading material include fiction, nonfiction, history, graphic novels, classics and contemporary works
- Have a talk: Ask your child to retell the story or share the information they just read, generating questions along the way.
- Offer reading-related incentives: If your child loves to ride horses or play with dogs, offer time with their animals after 30 minutes of reading to them. If your child is a hands-on learner, let them read instruction manuals and write their own.
- Connect reading to your child’s interests: Children who find a passion are hungry to learn more. Your local library has books on everything from soccer to karate, and from dinosaurs to dance. As children get older and become involved in activities, encourage them to do their own research. Along the way, children see the connection between reading and real life.
- Get moving: Active bodies help the brain perform at peak levels. Give your child breaks during reading sessions, every 10 minutes for younger children, and every hour or two for teens.
- Stay in touch: If your child struggles to read or simply doesn’t like it, teachers can help. They can suggest different types of reading material, effective incentives and new strategies that spark a love of reading and start the path to lifelong learning.
Reading Tips for Elementary School Students
Reading from an early age builds a lifelong habit, but not every child takes to it naturally. Parents can help their young children improve their reading rates and comprehension with a few simple tips and strategies.
- Turn reading into a game: Ask your child to spot certain letters or words. In the car, pick a word to spot on signs and billboards. If your child prefers math over reading, count the numbers of a letter on a page, or turn a story into a math problem.
- Play the rhyming game. When you come to the word “cat” on a page, ask, “What rhymes with cat?” Make it silly by allowing made-up words — as long as your child can concoct a definition.
- Make storytime more interactive: Bring out the puppets, toys and costumes. Have your child act out characters from the book.
- Read together: The best thing a parent can do to build literacy skills is to read with their child. Reading together — at bedtime and any time of day — strengthens parental bonds, sets a good example and signals that reading matters in your household. Take turns reading a page or sentence. Ask questions as you go. Some parents say they don’t feel comfortable reading with their children, but practice helps and creates precious family time.
- Use visuals and get crafty: Some children are visual learners — better suited to getting information through drawings and diagrams. Others are “kinesthetic learners” who prefer hands-on activities. Tap into those inclinations to build their enthusiasm for reading. Have them draw their own illustrations or create artistic masterpieces depicting characters or scenes from a book.
- Create digital-free zones: That cozy reading corner should be stocked with fun accessories, such as drawing paper and markers, but not the distractions and temptations of cellphones, TVs, tablets and computers.
Reading Tips for Middle and High School Students
The value of reading doesn’t suddenly stop at fifth grade. Middle and high school students can draw benefits and even continue to improve their reading with these simple tips and strategies.
- Don’t forget to engage older or advanced readers, too: Tweens and teens are striving for independence, but they still crave parental guidance. Help them understand that reading is important to their schooling and their post-graduation plans.
- Read and discuss young adult novels: Young adult novels reach tweens and teens with stories that speak to their daily lives, in any genre that interests them, whether science fiction, romance or horror. Parents can occasionally pick up the same book, for shared conversations about the characters and the challenges they confront — usually, the same challenges that your child is wrestling with.
- Start a blog or book club: Throughout life, reading stretches the mind and encourages independent thought. Older children can launch blogs or create book clubs through which they share their opinions and discuss their reading with others.
- Model good reading habits: Let your children see you reading books (or know that you’re reading a book on an electronic device, because they’re likely to assume you’re playing a game or checking texts, just like they do.) Keep a variety of reading material around the house, including news publications that keep your teen up to date on current events.
- Play audiobooks on the road: Audiobooks skip the printed word but still put a vivid spin on stories and issues. Play an interesting audiobook or podcast during long car rides, and you might be surprised to find out that your child is paying attention.
Kids go home with reading lists every summer. The point, teachers agree, is not unblinking adherence to the list but its use as a jumping-off point for exploring the wondrous world of books. Each child differs in reading level, and summer reading can make all the difference in preparing your child to move to the next level and learn to love reading for a lifetime.
- Classic: “The Mouse and the Motorcycle,” by Beverly Cleary. Introduce your reader to the timeless delights of Beverly Cleary with this tale of a mouse named Ralph who finds adventure on a toy motorcycle.
- Topical: “If I Never Forever Endeavor,” by Holly Meade. Gorgeously illustrated in collage by the author, this story of a bird building the courage to fly from his cozy nest resonates with children learning to dare.
- Series: “Shiloh,” by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. A boy rescues a beagle from its abusive owner, but he must keep his act of heroism a secret.
- Historical fiction: “Sam the Minuteman,” by Nathaniel Benchley (author) and Arnold Lobel (illustrator). Sam and his father rush to protect their colonial village from an attack by British soldiers.
- Just for fun: “Millions of Cats,” by Wanda Gág. “Hundreds of cats, thousands of cats, millions and billions and trillions of cats.” Kids — and their grownups — love chanting the refrain from this tale of an old man in search of the world’s prettiest cat.
- Classic: “Island of the Blue Dolphins,” by Scott O’Dell. A girl stranded on a lush Pacific island learns to survive while discovering her inner self.
- Topical: “Mockingbird,” by Kathryn Erskine. Faced with the loss of a beloved brother to a school shooting, Caitlyn learns to navigate a world of subtleties previously unseen through her Asperger’s syndrome.
- Series: “The Search for WondLa,” by Tony DiTerlizzi. Eva Nine, raised by the robot Muthr, searches for other humans after the destruction of her underground sanctuary.
- Nonfiction/history: “Freedom Walkers: The Story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” by Russell Freedman. Rosa Parks refuses to give up her bus seat to a white man, unleashing a milestone movement in American civil rights.
- Just for fun: “Herbert’s Wormhole,” by Peter Nelson (author) and Rohitash Rao (illustrator). Herbert and his friend time-travel and find heroism in a wacky 22nd century.
- Classic: “The Hobbit,” by J.R.R. Tolkien. It’s time to introduce your student to Tolkien’s world of hobbits, sorcerers, elves and a ring-hoarder called Gollum.
- Topical: “Goodbye Stranger,” by Rebecca Stead. Can three old friends survive the hazards of growing up, finding purpose and bringing new friends into the group?
- Series: “Redwall,” by Brian Jacques (author) and Troy Howell (illustrator). Bumbling young apprentice Matthias helps defend his colony of peace-loving mice.
- Nonfiction/history: “You Want Women to Vote, Lizzie Stanton?” by Jean Fritz. Young Elizabeth Cady Stanton helps change the world after a lifetime of pondering the illogical laws and customs preventing women from voting and speaking in public.
- Just for fun: “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” by Shel Silverstein. Enter the warped world of Silverstein, where Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout learns the consequences of refusing to take the garbage out, and an encounter with a boa constrictor doesn’t end well.
- Classic: “Romeo and Juliet,” by William Shakespeare. The star-crossed lovers will never get a break, but their tale continues to illuminate the hazards of hatred and the depths of true love.
- Topical: “Mexican Whiteboy,” by Matt De La Peña. A half-Mexican boy growing up in San Diego seeks friendship, acceptance and identity in a world that judges him at first sight.
- Series: “The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins. Katniss Everdeen wields her bow and arrow for justice and freedom in a dystopian world once known as North America.
- Nonfiction/history: “The Glass Castle: A Memoir,” by Jeannette Walls. Walls turns a keen eye on her childhood, when she and her siblings learned to care for themselves in the wake of their parents’ dysfunction.
- Just for fun: “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” by Rachel Cohn. A boy asks a girl, “Would you mind being my girlfriend for the next five minutes?” Those five minutes turn into an all-night quest by the mismatched pair to find a legendary band’s secret show.
At CCA, reading is the foundation of a fun, engaging learning experience. Our personalized approach harnesses the power of reading — in whatever form it takes — to craft a learning plan based on your child’s interests, passions, learning style and challenges. Our teachers partner with parents to incorporate the joys of reading into the joys of learning, for lifelong benefits. Learn more about CCA’s efforts to make reading a rich and fruitful experience. Enroll today!