Reading and Comprehension Strategies

  • Below is a list of strategies and comprehension skills you can use with your child to build his/her skills:

    Reading Strategies

    Ask and Answer Questions

    1. Readers ask themselves questions both before and during the reading while gathering information from the story.  They then look for answers to those questions. Seeking answers to questions helps readers to better remember and enjoy the story.

    2. Use the title, pictures, back cover to ask questions.

    3. Model the skill for your child: “The title of this book is called, Hedgehog Goes Outside, and the picture on the cover shows a hedgehog outside in snowy weather. This information makes me think of several questions about what I am going to read. Why does the hedgehog go outside? Who are those people, and why are they cheering? I will look for these answers to these questions as I read."

    4. After reading, ask your child to explain if they can answer some of their questions.  

    5. Ask, “Was your answer “right there” in the story or did you have to “think and search” using clues from the story?"

     Predicting (Make, revise, and confirm predictions)

     1. Think about the pictures on the cover and the title to make a prediction. This will help you think about what you are going to read.

    2. Preview the book to help revise their prediction.

    3. Reflect on the reading strategy by asking if the prediction(s) were confirmed by reading the book.  Example: I predicted this was a school, and the pictures helped me confirm this. Now that I read the text, I can be sure Allie is in a school.

    4. Questions you may use to help predict:

    -   What do you think you are going to read about in this story called ________?

    -    Where do you think the story takes place? (by looking at cover and title)

    -     What might be happening in the story?


    1. Readers remember what they are reading by stopping now and then during reading to retell in their mind what is happening in the story.

    2. Model the strategy for your child: “When someone retells something, he or she explains the details of what happened in order. In the story, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilocks comes to a house in the forest that belongs to three bears: a mama bear, a papa bear, and a baby bear. The bears leave the house for a walk in the forest while their porridge is cooling. Goldilocks goes inside the house, even though no one is home. First, Goldilocks sees three bowls of porridge on the table. She tries each one.  The first bowl is too hot, the second bowl is too cold, and the third bowl is just right, so she eats it all up. Next, she sees three chairs and sits in each one. The first chair is too hard, the second chair is too soft, and the third chair is just right. However, the chair breaks and Goldilocks falls to the ground."  Continue retelling in detail to the end of the story.

    3. When reading, give your child sticky notes and explain that as they read, they should stop on these pages to think about what has happened in the story and write it on the sticky note.

    4. Discuss their thinking and use the pictures in the book as a guide to retell the events in the story.

    5. Ask your child how pausing to retell the story in their mind helped them to remember what was happening in the story.


    1. Explain to your child that one way to understand and remember information in a book is to summarize paragraphs or sections mentally or on paper. A summary is a brief overview of the most important information in the text.

    2. Model the strategy for your child: “I will decide what information is important from what I’ve read. Then, in my mind, I will organize the important information into a few words or sentences. If I am reading about Egypt and the text on a page includes information about its location and people, I will be looking for the most important information. I will underline the words African country, Nile River, farmers, hunters, boat travel, and a king called a pharaoh. When I look at this important information, a summary of that part of the story might be: Egypt is an African country with a river called the Nile. It’s ancient people were farmers, hunters, and boaters. Their king was called a pharaoh."

    3. After reading with your child ask them to discuss some details from the story and then summarize the important information.

     Comprehension Skills

    Sequence Events

    1. Readers notice the steps on how to do something are told in order from beginning to end.

    2. Model the strategy for your child: “When I do something, I often seem to follow the steps in order. When I do the laundry, first I gather all the dirty clothes. Next, I take them to the laundry room. Then I sort them by color and type. Next, I put them into the machines to wash and dry them. Last, I fold the clothes and put them away. I have a plan for how to do the laundry. Since I think this book is about making chocolate milk, I will think about the steps I will need to take to make the chocolate milk and the order of the steps. As I read, I will look for words that describe these steps.”

    3. As you read, ask your child to show and tell you when they notice the signal words used to explain a sequence of events. (First, second, next, then and last).

    4. After reading, ask your child to explain or write down the sequence of events in order.

     Story Elements: Identify Characters

     1. Tell your child that characters are the people or animals that perform the action in the story. Identifying and describing the characters help you understand the story.

    2. Model the strategy by using a familiar tale, “In the story, Little Red Riding Hood, Red Riding Hood is a girl taking food to her grandmother. She is a person performing a lot of the action in the story, and that means that she is a character in the story. Little Red Riding Hood is young, she is a girl, and she always wears a red cloak, which is how she got her nickname. What other characters are in this story?”

    3. After reading, ask your child the following:

    -    Describe the main character in the story.

    -    Write three words or phrases that describe this character.

    -     Choose one other character from the story.

    -     Write one word or phrase that describes this character.

     Story Elements: Problem and Solution

    1. Readers think about a problem the character has in the book and how he/she plans to solve it to understand the story. 

    2.  Model the skill for your child: “Let’s pretend that someone forgot to bring his lunch. First, model identifying the problem (the student has no lunch). Next, tell why the student has the problem (he forgot to bring his lunch). Then, ask your child what would happen if the problem isn’t solved? (the student will be hungry). Last, ask your child how can the problem be solved? (call his mom, ask his teacher, get an I.O.U.)”

     3. When reading, you may ask your child the following questions:

    -     What problem does (character) have?

    -     Why does (character) have this problem?

    -     What might happen if (character) doesn’t solve his/her problem?

    -     How is the problem solved?

    Text-dependent Questions

     1. Ask your child questions about the story using prompts that start with: who, what, where, when, why, and how.

    2. Ask your child to show you the page number(s) where they found information in the text to answer your questions.


    -     Why does the owl have to turn its head to see?

    -     In what ways are lizards’ eyes different from other animals’ eyes?

    -     Why are some animals’ eyes considered strange?

     Main Idea and Details

    1. Show your child any photograph or picture in a book. Ask them to describe what the picture shows. Ask them to write one sentence that states what the photograph or picture mostly shows. Point out that this sentence is called the main idea. Explain that a main idea is what a picture or a text is mostly about and that the details give more information about the main idea.

    2. Explain to your child that they can identify the main idea when they read. Say: “Finding the main idea can help you understand what you read. Then you know how to describe what you learned.”

    3. Look at the pictures, title, and the words on the page to help you figure out the main idea.

    4. Model the example: "I like to learn with my class. I have good times with friends on the playground. I play fun games in the gym." Ask your child what these sentences are about. (school). Say: "These are all details about school. What are all these details telling readers about school?" (school is fun) Explain that School is fun is the main idea. The main idea sentence may be the first or last sentence in a paragraph. You have to think about which sentence tells what the paragraph is mostly about.

     Analyze Character

    1. Write these words down on a piece of paper for your child: friendly, helpful, and brave. Say: “These words describe people. Do you know who is helpful?

    2. Explain that characters are the people or animals in a story. Say: "You can use these same words to describe characters in stories, too."

    3. When reading, ask your child to identify the characters and to think about words to describe them. Say: “Describing the characters will help you understand why the act the way they do.”

    4. You can look for clues to find out what kind of people they are. Pay attention to what the characters do, say and think or feel.

    5. Use the tale, Three Little Pigs and focus on the third pig. Ask your child what he does, says, thinks, or feels. (builds a house out of bricks; helps his brothers when the wolf blows their houses down). Ask your child to describe the pig based on these clues. (pig is wise because he makes the house out of bricks and not straw, or helpful because he lets the other pigs stay in his house.)

    Cause and Effect

    1. Model the skill: “Think about a rainy day. Rain starts to fall. What might happen next?" (puddles will form on the ground; flowers will grow; people will stay inside) Say: “The rain is why the things you described such as puddles forming, happen. The rain is the cause. The things that you said are the effects of the rain. An effect is what happens.  Some causes only have one effect, but some have more than one effect. The rain has more than one effect. Authors use cause and effect relationships like these.“

    2. Readers look for causes and effects to help keep track of what is going on.

    3. Ask your child to look for clue words to identify cause and effect. These clue words are because, so, cause and since. Give an example: The weather was rainy, so I took an umbrella. Ask your child to identify the cause (The weather was rainy), the effect (I took an umbrella), and the clue word (so) in the first sentence.  Explain that in some sentences, the cause comes before the effect. In other sentences, the effect comes first. You have to think and figure out the cause and effect relationship.

    Compare and Contrast

     1. Model the skill: Show or display pictures of two different kinds of footwear, such as a sneaker and a sandal. Say: “What is one way these are alike?" (They are both shoes.) Say: "Now look again. What is one way they are different?" (One shoe is a sneaker. Sneakers cover the whole foot. The other shoe is a sandal. Sandals show most of the foot.)

     2. Explain that readers notice when authors compare and contrast things.  Compare shows how things are similar and contrast shows how things are different.

    3. There are clue words to look for when reading that authors use to tell how things are alike such as, both and same. There are clue words or phrases to look for when reading to tell how things are different such as, not the same and different.

    4. Readers compare and contrast things and ideas in what they read. It helps you remember more.

    5. When reading ask yourself, “What makes these ______ the same?”  I will compare. I will look for a word that tells how they are the same.

    Make Inferences/Draw Conclusions

     1. Explain  to your child, “Authors don’t always use details to explain everything that happens in a book. Sometimes they give readers clues to figure out what they didn’t tell in the words. Readers have to use their prior knowledge, experiences and clues from the story to make a guess. This is called making an inference or drawing a conclusion.”

    2. Model the skill: Give your child a photograph with no text. Ask them to observe (look) at the photo and tell you only what they see.  Next ask them to tell you what they already know about the photograph. Then ask them to use the clues to help make the inference or conclusion.  For example, (observation/clues) I see a baby smiling. I see the baby sitting in a high chair. I see a bowl and spoon on top of the tray. I see mushy food around the baby’s mouth. I see a clock that says 8:00 a.m.  (prior knowledge) I know that babies eat in a high chair. I know that baby cereal is mushy and white. I know that baby’s eat oatmeal for breakfast. I know I am happy when I eat. (inference/conclusion) The baby is enjoying eating oatmeal for breakfast.