How does comprehension contribute to reading success?

Comprehension or understanding what we read is the whole aim of reading. (See Phonics: a guide for families for a diagram that explains the reading process.) Good readers comprehend in different ways depending on the book, article or website they are reading. Some of the ways readers comprehend include:

  • predicting before reading and as they read
  • making connections between what is being read and the reader’s past experiences of books, life and the world
  • asking questions about what is being read. What is this character going to do in this situation? Why did that character do that?
  • monitoring meaning, checking predictions, confirming them, correcting them, re-predicting and re-reading
  • creating a mental summary of key parts of the story or information
  • creating a mental picture of the characters and setting
  • inferring, interpreting and reading ‘between the lines’
  • considering the text purpose. Why did the author write this book? How does the author intend for me to respond to this article?

How can families encourage comprehension at home?

To help children to see that the aim of reading is meaning making, read together for lots of different purposes then discuss and reflect on the things you read together. Comprehension shouldn’t be forced, it should come naturally from reading.

  • Share your response to a book read together with your child, for example: I liked the part when … What did you like? I was surprised by the part when … What surprised you?
  • Talk about other books or experiences that you are reminded of when reading aloud. You could say: This is like that other book we read about … That part of the story reminded me of when we went to visit Grandma and …
  • Pause and predict at interesting points in a story, when reading aloud, for example: Oh, that’s an interesting situation. I wonder what the character is going to do now? How do you think that character is feeling right now? What might happen next?
  • Retell stories to each other after reading. Make stories part of play using dress-ups, dolls or figurines, drawing and craft, sand play or play dough.