22 answers

Teaching an 8 Year Old Reading Comprehension

My son struggled all year with reading/writing activities. He can read about 2 levels above grade level, but cannot comprehend anything he reads. He "guesses" on all the answers to his tests and does OK at school. I talked with his teacher, but she said the scores on his tests are fine, so there wasn't much they could do. I just left it, since he was there all day. Homework is always a battle in our house! Since school has been out, I've been working a lot more with him, and he really doesn't understand anything that's going on in the stories he's reading (no wonder it was such a struggle during the school year to get him to read!) Does anyone have any strategies or suggestions to help him out this summer raise his reading comprehension. We don't have the money to do any private tutoring or classes, but I have time (and most days the energy) to help him at home. I just need a direction to begin. Any strategies would be much appreciated.

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I am a certified Reading Specialist. I would love to help you and give you ideas. There are many ideas that I have, and would love to talk to you more if you would like. You can call me at ###-###-####.


1 mom found this helpful

I'm not a teacher, but you may want to try breaking it down. Have him read a sentence and tell you what it means, then a paragraph, etc. Also, maybe if he wrote more, he would have a better sense of all this stuff MEANS something. The author didn't go through all that trouble to write stuff for nothing!

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I am a certified Reading Specialist. I would love to help you and give you ideas. There are many ideas that I have, and would love to talk to you more if you would like. You can call me at ###-###-####.


1 mom found this helpful

People who have good reading comprehension create a movie in their head as they read. They watch it play out in their mind and that makes for good recall. Often people who have poor comprehension don't make the movie in their head. Each sentence is on it's own. They aren't connected for them into this flowing picture story.
There's a good book that any lay person can use that walks you thru teaching a person to have a movie in their mind when they read. It's called Visualizing/Verbalizing and you can find it at Gander Publications. www.ganderpublishing.com

1 mom found this helpful

My son struggled as well and he is 8. Until we found "The Magic treehouse" series. He loves these books.. I can hardly keep up. For the summer, I can only suggest finding books he is interested in, the rest will come...

I'm not a teacher, but you may want to try breaking it down. Have him read a sentence and tell you what it means, then a paragraph, etc. Also, maybe if he wrote more, he would have a better sense of all this stuff MEANS something. The author didn't go through all that trouble to write stuff for nothing!

Can't help much with a strategy other than practice. They do get better with practice. Read short bits at a time, and then have him explain what is going on. He can either tell you, or write it in his own words.
I wanted to say, however, ask your school to have him tested for a learning disability. Our daughter has dyslexia, and comprehension was one of her big issues, too. When they tested her, they discovered she has an above average intelligence (way above average !) but her reading was way below grade level. They told us this is the earmark of a learning disability rather than a child who is just slow. From there, we were able to find strategies to help her cope and compensate, and she is doing very well now. In fact, at only 19 years old, she was made manager of the jewelry department at the store where she works. This stuff can be overcome !
I hope you get things worked out for your son, too.

Try going down two levels of reading. Find books that he will enjoy, interesting or fun. Read through the book first your self so you can ask question to see if he is comprehending. If there is something he is really interested, airplanes, trains, sports, animals you could make it a theme for the summer then read every thing on it you can. You could possibly do activities to tie in with it. Check with the librarian to make sure you are getting books with a level he can comprehend. As he comprehends these books move up to next level. If you have a bookstore that sells home school things you might be able to find specific comprehension workbooks to help if you can get him to sit down and do the workbooks.

You have to get him to listen instead of going in a zone and reading. Read together. And then ask questions when your done with your part so that he will have to listen to what's coming up or what the answer is. When you read - read with exaggeration so you suck him into the book with you. It works. And then when he's done ask questions about what he read.

L. B

Reading is so critical that I congratulate you on your insight. I kept my daughter home for 4th grade because she couldn't read, but she was dyslexic. We worked on many things, but it is important to find out his learning style. The library can be a great resource. My daughter is oral - she can remember most anything she hears. She is also tactile - learns by physically touching or doing a project. Spelling was an issue, too. That isn't as big a deal with spell check. My daughter's reading level greatly improved with my reading book after book to her till she began to be able to understand. For her it was a maturity thing and a little persistence. I'd have vision screened, too, as well as be attentive to dyslexia issues that can be of varying types. Best to you.

It took my daughter until this year, 3rd grade, to get the reading comprehension. To her it was just words on a page you had to say. I started in the fall having her read out loud to me. First a paragraph, then a page. After each I would ask her what it had said. When she started telling in her own words what she thought it was about, we went to 2 pages, and then a chapter. It got to be fun to come home and tell me what they had read at school. By Spring break time, she had 3 books going at once, and knew what was happening in each one!! (More than what I can do!!)
Hope this helps.

children will trick us if he is as old as my daughter just sit and let him know that god love him and want him to learn .get a book that he can read and that have questions give it to him and let him do it by himself aslong as he have some place he want to go.i hope it works.

A couple of ideas -
1. Have him read a story out loud to you, then work together on making hand puppets of the characters in the story, and act out what happened in the story. This will reinforce understanding and remembering the content of what he is reading.
2. After reading a story, ask him to write a sentence or two telling about the story. This will help him grasp the idea of the story, and will also be good handwriting and grammer practice to have him ready for school in the fall.

The reason your son's comprehension is so bad is that it is taking all the brain power he has just to decode (sound out) the words he's reading: There's nothing left for comprehension of what he's reading. I'm assuming he's your 8 year old? He sounds like a very bright boy who may be dyslexic. Dyslexia ranges from mild to profound, so a mild to moderate dyslexic student who is very bright could do exactly what your son is doing and function OK in school--to a point. Most kiddos with dyslexia usually hit a wall, though, and their grades and interest in school begin to suffer. I have training in Alphabetic Phonics, a program proven to teach dyslexic students to read. If you want more info, feel free to email me privately.

Does your school do Reading Recovery or a Title one reading programs? I would check with those reading teachers to see if they can suggest some specific strategies for you to use while reading with him. Even if your child does not qualify for these programs, these teachers are great resources. Since your school is out for the summer you might check with the universities who provide training for these reading teachers.

A few years ago, I was in charge of an in school tutoring program funded through AmeriCorps. We used a program that was developed by a teacher from Kentucky. He based many of his strategies on the Reading Recovery strategies. Each book had a session plan which incorporated different types of questions after the book with a lead in activty before the book, and a follow up exercise afterward. The person who developed the program touted it as adults and kids having one one one conversations about books. The questions were around the areas of reading comprehension - literal comprehension (facts about the book), reorganization questions (things are stated but you have to put several parts together to come up with the answer),inference questions (answers are in the text but not implicitly stated), prediction questions- predicting what might happen in the story next, personal responses - what did you like about the story. There were other components of the program but I am trying to keep the explanation simple.

Although the tutors took time to create lesson plans for each book, parents could easily have informal conversations that involve all these areas of reading comprehension. We did pre and post tests testing specifically for areas of reading comprehension. Many kids made great improvements. The questions during the lesson plan were not tests they were conversations. If kids didn't know the answers they were encouraged to page back through the book to find things out.

Some school districts have also incorporated some of the reading and answering questions into computer sessions. They call it different things in different schools. Some have Reading Counts programs. Kids read books and answer questions on the computer. Often there are incentives built into it. I think the key is to make it fun, informal but structured, and try to hit on at least some of those reading comprehension areas. I am sure there is a lot of information out there on the internet as well. Good luck.

The hardest part about this age is that they see reading as a chore. They haven't yet found the love of the story. I have had moderate success with my daughter lately finding her the Judie B Jones books. There must be some equivalent for boys. Since you do have time, I'd pick some chapter books that you and he can work on with you and he reading every other page together. Maybe go for the Hardy Boys mysteries.

There is a time and a place for information reading which of course is what Science and Social Studies is about. Even if you open the world of reading for fun up to him, he'll still struggle any time he shuts down mentally. So you need to talk with him a lot about why school is important and the types of possible jobs he could get when he's grown. I think it's very hard for kids to really see themselves as adults. Since it's so many millions of years in the future of them (exaggeration I know but that's how they feel), the last thing they need to think about or want to think about is preparing for a future. This is where the schools and many of us parents fail our kids. We need to show them. I think there needs to be many more field trips in school. I remember what a huge impact seeing a factory or a restaurant had on me. In my school we spent the night sleeping in a mall after closing. We toured an ice cream factory. We had great speakers come to our school. But it didn't happen nearly enough.

I agree with the other poster. His mind is going to another place. It happens to all of us. I've read the same paragraph 5 times when I wasn't able to concentrate.

There is another way to help him. Help him write stories. When he sees how many ways there is to say the same thing, he'll start to understand why really paying attention is important. Let him draw and then encourage him to write a story to go with his pictures. Then help him put it into a nice typed version.

Another thing you can do is take a simple short story starter. You write the ending yourself and have him to do it to. Then you can compare your story with his.

Every kid thrives on their parents sitting down and working with them. But the key is patience and not letting it turn into a fight. If it starts to turn into a fight take a break and come back to it.


First great job catching the fact that there is a comprehension struggle, that is often overlooked because they can read the words. My first suggestion is to help your son slow down when he is reading. I know this is not an easy task for an 8 year old boy!!! Many times kids are reading the words individually so fast they are not connecting the words to a thought. I would also let him choose a lot of the reading material and it doesn't have to be a traditional book. Maybe give him his favorite recipe to read and create, so he has to slow down and understand what he is reading. Another idea would be how to books. . . like how to make a kite (or anything) and let him make it along with the book. This way you are increasing his comprehension without drilling every time. At least once a week I would have him read a book, chapter, whatever you choose, (depending on is ability), you make up comprehension questions and make him go back through the book to show you where the answers are-even if he can tell you without looking. This just reaffirms to him that the information is in the book. I would suggest beginning with EASY questions as you want to set him up with successes--kids who think they can are much more willing to try!! Not sure if any of these will help with your kiddo but I commend you on really trying to help him out!
I would also suggest reading aloud together-you to him and when he feels comfortable him to you and sometimes let him ask you questions about the story!
Most of all try to keep it fun and light not like a punishment!

I would read to him. My oldest son had a bad experience in 1st grade with reading. He refused to read anymore. So I read to him. I read things that HE would like. His dad read The Hobbit & things like that to him. We just continued reading daily to him. His comprehension then skyrocketed. I would suggest you find topics that he enjoys & you read to him...whatever it is about, whether you like it or not, he will & it will suck him right back in. Good luck!

I didn't read the previous posts as there are quite a few! But I know what really helped me was hooked on phonics. I don't know if they still make them or if you can find a used set but my parents made my brother and I do it for a few hours every weekend. I loved reading as a kid anyway, but it definitelt helped me with comprehension. It starts out with short stories and after reading it gives you short quizzes. As you progress the reading samples become longer and more detailed and the tests increase in detail as well.

Some times it takes some kids to start comprehension even though they can read very well and then other times its the other way around. My daughter can comprehend but has problems reading some words.
So what I have done when I tutor is let them read a paragraph and then let him tell you what happened in that paragraph. You may have to start with every other sentence at first. You've got to make him see that words in a story can help you make a mental picture of what is happening.

Like tell him to read she ran to the store. then ask him what did that just tell you. or another way is to read a short paragraph make him close his eyes and listen then tell you what he just heard and pictured in his mind.

Another thing is this summer let him read books that are fun for him.

I hope this helps you.

D. R

I agree with the person who said that he may be spending a lot of effort just sounding out the words--not much left for putting the sentences together to realize what is going on in the story. In my experience, it's not just dyslexic children who have this problem; some kids just have a harder time than others realizing that written words communicate ideas.
Choose topics he enjoys. Read to him every day, and occasionally ask him what he thinks might happen next, or what has already happened--you can toss your own opinions in there sometimes, so that he can see that you are paying attention to the story, too. To start with, let him use pictures for reference, but move up to books with fewer and fewer pictures so that he has to use the text to figure it out.
It may also help to draw pictures of three to five things that happen in the story; after reading, have him put the pictures in the order that they happened. Make sure you're using situations that are NOT easy to figure out without reading, though--most kids already know that getting out of bed in the morning comes before eating breakfast, for example. You want him to have some successes early on, but if it's too easy, he may get bored quickly.
The idea about getting a "how-to" book is also a good one. Anything that will help him realize that the words make sentences, and the sentences provide information. Right now, he may simply feel that he's reading the words, or even the sentences, but he may not realize that the sentences are also connected to each other to present complete ideas.
If you can get him to select part of a book or a short article (Highlights for Children, Ranger Rick, etc.) to read to you, let him do so, and interrupt occasionally to ask questions about the story--but don't do this too often. You want him to think about what he's reading, but too many interruptions will be more of a distraction than a help. Perhaps one or two questions per two-page story would be good.
Mostly, just spend some time each day reading to him, even if you think what you are reading may be above his comprehension level. As long as the scenes are age-appropriate, read it aloud. He'll pick up the vocabulary. And you don't have to make him sit and listen, either--let him play with his toy cars or building blocks in the room while you read aloud (but no TV, music, or video games, obviously).
Does he see you reading for enjoyment? Kids are much more likely to be interested in reading if they see their parents doing so. If you aren't, then get some books you'd like to read, too, and then both of you can read silently while you have your own "story time" at home.
Good luck!

The Best advice I have for you is to READ,READ,READ! Read to him if he doesn't want to read... cereal boxes, magazines, anything with words...Of course encourage him to read also, but just make a habit of reading out loud at times throughout the day.
If you can get him to sit down and read a book with you, discuss what it means. Try to get him to slow down and listen to what he reads. Maybe even stop when there is an important part and see if he knows what they are talking about. If not, offer suggestions that may lead him to the answer.
Be careful not to push him too hard though or you could make him hate reading. Make it a fun thing. Go to the library and pick out books together on topics he would enjoy. Maybe even do an activity that goes along with the book.
Good job to you too for paying attention and noticing this. I child who learns to read and comprehend early will generally do much better in school than those who don't. Sounds like you're a great mom. Good luck.

I know that your boys are to old to still be part of the parents as teachers program, but maybe their group could help you get started with some website selections, etc....Have they all been tested through parents as teachers for their yearly testing?? That might be a way to get information as well. The group in O'Fallon are wonderful and have always helped me no matter what the age.
Tks T.

I agree absolutely with Cheryl R.
Let him choose a theme to learn about; or give him a list of subjects to choose from. That way he's making the choice of what to learn about.
Check out books that are two levels below his reading level for him to read aloud. Reading aloud will make him concentrate on the words. (I was in my third year of college before I realized that I had to read my textbooks aloud to understand and learn what I needed to.) Also check out books that are above his level for you to read to him.
Also, www.abcteach.com has reading comprehension activities. There are printable pages that have one paragraph or just short paragraphs and questions to answer. Try some of those as well.

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