Improve Reading Comprehension with the Best 14 Questions

Boy reading a non-fiction text. Learn to ask the "just right" questions to determine how well your kids understand what they read.
Thanks to wassim mechergui for sharing their work on Unsplash.

Sharing Reading – Now that your Kids are Older

When your kids were learning to read, it was easier to see if they understood the story. You had them read out loud, so you made sure they could read the words. You practiced and practiced reading aloud, which was how to improve reading comprehension at the early stages.

The Right Questions

At some point, around 8 or 9 years old,  many kids start to read to themselves. So how do you know if they understand what they are reading? Now you need a new strategy for how to improve reading comprehension. Take a lesson from the teachers and start asking the right questions. You may want to read the entire book your child has read or at least part of the story so you can discuss their opinions.

PARENT ALERT:   

Make your encounter with your kids about their reading as casual as possible. The last thing you want to do is to appear to add another lesson to their day. Show that you are interested through your questioning, but accept the answers they give you without being critical. 

However, you can gain more information by saying, “Can you tell me more about your thinking?” or “I’d never thought about it that way, can you give me more details about your ideas.?” In these encounters, you should be listening much more than talking. 

Some standard questions will get your kids talking about the story or book they just read. Take a look at these questions but select only 1 or 2 to ask your kids. You do not want to overwhelm them. Keep the list handy for future books, and over time you will have the opportunity to cover many different aspects of stories or non-fiction books. 

Why Include Non-fiction?

Over the last few decades, many studies have indicated that kids were reading fiction only. However, if you look at the type of reading adults do in their daily lives, it is mostly non-fiction. At that point of realization, educational systems made a shift to include non-fiction material, from the youngest age level. Now there is a better balance with the choice of books readily available to kids. This was one critical step in how to improve reading comprehension. Offer appealing text types.

Also, research has shown that boys often relate more to non-fiction, and since boys are the majority of reluctant readers, it is essential to provide materials they like. 

Level up your questions to expand your kid’s concepts of reading. Move your questions from the true or false statement of facts to opinions, predictions, and evaluations by changing the type of questions you ask.

1) BEFORE – Build Motivation Through Questions Before the Reading Starts

You can motivate your kids to want to read by getting them to predict how the story may entertain them or how the non-fiction book can help them understand their world more clearly.

Stories

Are there in clues in the title or in the pictures throughout the story to help you understand what may happen in this story?

Touch On: Some book titles are obvious, while others leave interpretation open. Your child may enjoy specific genres or authors, which may be why they want to read certain books. Many kids are attracted to the pictures first. 

Non-Fiction

What do you want to learn by reading this book? How do you know that it is a good fit for what you want to know? 

Touch On: Take a look beyond the title and pictures. This is a great time to breeze through the Contents Table to get some more detailed information about what the book will cover. Often the Index is also a good indicator of the details that are covered. 

2) DURING – Support the Reading of the Book

While your kids are reading their books, you can interact with them about what they are reading. By showing interest, you will establish the importance of reading.  Here are some questions to spark discussion and help them learn how to become a better reader.

Stories

What character would you like to talk to in real life?

Touch On: It is helpful to have your kids expand on their answers by asking what makes this character so interesting.  Perhaps your child wants to ask the character questions or wish to join this character in the storyline.

So far, do you think the author has a lesson he or she wants you to learn? 

Touch On: As adults, we have expectations about stories. While they are entertaining, different genres will have specific characteristics. Most kids’ books have a lesson to be learned. While your child is reading, they can be trying to figure out the lesson hidden in the story. You can ask, “What clues started you thinking this way?”

Non-Fiction

Why are you so interested in continuing to read this book?

Touch On:  Your kids may have positive feelings about the topic, or they may still be interested in finding out more about the subject. You can remind your kids that if they lose interest in a book, it is okay to abandon it. Good readers do this all of the time. You want them to enjoy reading so they will continue. It is vital to give them permission to stop a book that is boring or even too difficult for them to read independently.

Are there any questions you have for the author of this book?  

Touch On: There are bound to be many books on the subject of the non-fiction material they are reading. Your kids’ questions are important and may lead to further investigation. As your kids read, you want them to develop some self-monitoring techniques. By suggesting they may have questions, you are assisting them in developing expert reading techniques.

Do you believe everything this author is telling you? 

Touch On: In this day of information overload, it is crucial to reveal to your kids that authors may be giving only part of the story. Sometimes the authors have their own personal bias; at other times, the author is trying to convince the reader to side with a particular viewpoint. By asking this question, you are opening your kids’ eyes to evaluating the source of their information. Even if your kids say they believe the author, you are still planting a seed that all you read and see may not necessarily be true.

3) AFTER – Share the Experience Afterwards

Mom and daughter having a casual conversation. Use the "just right" questions to determine how well your kids understand what they are reading. Deepen their comprehension.
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels


As a sophisticated reader, I like to reread the first chapter of many books. It is an amazing technique to help you appreciate the craft of story-telling.  You may want to introduce your child to this strategy, but it is essential to follow their lead.

If they show no interest in doing so, wait until they have matured and have the patience to apply this technique.

Stories

What character in the story did you like best? Why did that character appeal to you?

Touch on: Many kids may not understand that the characters in stories have personalities. By asking this type of question, you suggest that authors build details to show the personalities of their characters.

Why do you think the author wrote this story? What do they want you to remember from this story?

Touch On: A story is different from real life. The author wants to send a message to the readers. Often there is a lesson to be learned if you can view the story as an expression of someone’s viewpoint.

Is this story similar to another story you have heard or read for yourself?

Touch On: This is a highly subjective question. The discussion will be based on your kid’s reading experience. You may know some connections they can make so you can say, “It seems a lot like ______” or you may not have any idea about the answer. While the answer may be out of your experience, the process of making connections is an essential part of reading.

Do you think one of your friends would like this book?

Touch On: The heart of this question is more about what your child values in this book. It could be that they like humor and know a friend who likes to laugh, or they like to solve mysteries and share that interest with a cousin or another relative. 

Non-Fiction

What was the most exciting or amazing fact you learned by reading this?

Would this book be different if it had been written in the past or the future? Can you explain your thinking about the differences you have imagined?

Touch On: For these types of questions, there are no right or wrong answers. The quality of the thinking will be revealed in your kids’ explanations. 

A Last Word  . . . .

Do not overload your kids with questions. Select one or two pertinent questions to discuss. Your questions should be more of a bonding opportunity than an academic exercise.

Share the reading experience with a few quality questions to stimulate a discussion that will improve your kid’s reading comprehension skills.

Often less, is more!

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6 Powerful Ways to Motivate Your Struggling Reader   Motivate your kids to turn to reading for a variety of reasons: to find information, for relaxation, or for sharing. Learn what TO DO as well as what NOT TO DO.  With small changes, you can make a huge difference.   https://toywhisperer.blog/6-powerful-ways-to-motivate-your-struggling-reader/

 Help Me Teach My Child to Learn to Read: Mom of a Struggling Reader     https://toywhisperer.blog/help-me-teach-my-child-to-learn-to-read-mom-of-a-struggling-reader/

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