The Comprehension Question

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“What curriculum do you recommend for improving my child’s comprehension level?”

It’s a question that comes up frequently in homeschooling forums.

It’s a question that doesn’t have a quick answer, at least if that answer is coming from me.

It’s a question for which I’d like to offer you two solutions:


    What’s the best use of your child’s time toward the goal of being an excellent reader? Is it worksheets? Is it filling in visual organizers? Is it answering questions at the end of each chapter? NOPE.

    Research shows us that the best way for children to become readers is by…READING.
    Reading at bedtime is a good start, but keep going. Add reading in the car in the form of audiobooks. Build an independent reading time into your homeschool’s routine. Read aloud as your children work on art projects, crafts, or some other activity that busies their hands. Begin your homeschool day with a chapter of whatever your family’s current read aloud is.

    Bottom line – if you want your children to be better readers, they must READ. A lot. Books that they listen to, also known as ear reading, certainly count.


Asking questions about a story’s characters, plot, and setting after the reading only ASSESSES comprehension. Assessment has its place, but we can’t confuse evaluating what a child knows with TEACHING the child.

Read alouds are an ideal opportunity for teaching comprehension skills. Catch the moments in the stories you read aloud to your children that require readers to make inferences, appear to foreshadow future events, or seem a little tricky to make sense of. Then talk about it and share how YOU know the answer.

An example of teaching foreshadowing:

In chapter 1 of The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall, Jane Penderwick thinks that she sees a face in one of the windows of the mansion next to her family’s summer vacation cottage.

Jane reluctantly turned away from the mansion. “I thought I saw a boy in that window up there. He was looking down at us.”

Stop reading and talk. You might ask, “Who do you think that is in the window? Do you have any guesses?”. Then you could share, “I bet that whoever is in that window is going to be important in the story later. When authors write mysterious things like this, they usually come up later in the story.”

YOU CAN TOTALLY DO THAT! No curriculum needed. Save that money for the bookstore, my friend.

2 thoughts on “The Comprehension Question

  1. Spot on, Maggie. I also recommend spending some time with closed captioning on TV. It helps with eye tracking–turn off the sound and let your kids READ a show.


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