For many children, remembering what they read even just from a few minutes before can be difficult. Both struggling readers and those who read at or above grade level can struggle with reading comprehension, or the ability to recall what they had been reading before.
While many reading comprehension strategies focus on answering questions about short, nonfiction passages in workbooks, the best way to promote better reading retention is through regular books and materials. Whether it is a comic book, an article for a school assignment, or a piece from a magazine, the following strategies can help children better retain what they read.
1. Read, cover, remember, and retell. After reading a paragraph, have children cover the passage with their hand. Then, encourage them to remember what they read and retell it in their own words. Doing this helps them process what they read, as well as gives the opportunity to immediately go back and reread if necessary.
2. Use sticky notes to mark the text. While writing in school or library books should be discouraged, sticky notes are a way to interact with the text without damaging it. After every page or two, have children “check in” with the text by marking the page with a sticky note. For example, green sticky notes can represent “I understand everything I just read,” and pink sticky notes could represent “I have a question about what I just read.” These visual cues can make it easier for children and parents to understand the reading comprehension process.
3. Reflect and predict. When reading a book in more than one sitting, start by discussing what happened previously in the book before reading anything new. Likewise, after finishing a chapter or passage ask, “What do you think will happen next?” Using the information in the story to make reasonable predictions can help them apply what they have read.
4. Relate to the story. Children relate better to information that feels relevant to their own lives. When reading, stop and discuss what parts of the text relate to their own lives or other things they have read.
5. “Do I understand?” The most important tool parents and teachers can give children is the ability to recognize when they do and do not understand what they’ve read. If a child is having trouble recalling what they read even after using these strategies, try choosing reading materials at an easier level – or even seeking help from an educator or other professional.