Reading Comprehension Activities

There are reading comprehension activities that you can do with your children to increase their ability to understand the books and passages they are reading.


Comprehension is the heart of reading.
girl reading to teddy bear

7 Activities to Improve Reading Comprehension

Read below for our seven activities to increase your child's reading comprehension. Also check out other resources available below.

Listen To Them Read Out Loud

Even if your child has been reading silently, you may pick up some insights into their reading comprehension by listening to their oral reading.

When students are concentrating on "decoding" - or figuring out what the words on the page are - they have less ability to focus on comprehension. Here are some of the oral reading traits that will indicate the child is primarily focusing on decoding:
  • They frequently slow down to sound out or pronounce an unfamiliar word. There should be no more than one unfamiliar word in a paragraph.
  • They do not pay attention to punctuation. If a student moves from word to word and continues to the first word in the next sentence without a pause, it indicates they are focusing on the words, not the meaning.
  • They use no expression when reading.
The above signs indicate the passage is above the level for the student to comprehend, even if he or she can read all the words.

Plan Reading Time

A young reader should have at least 3 periods a day of 15-20 minutes when they are reading. In most cases, students in school will meet this criteria simply through school attendance.

However, if the school experience doesn't provide it, or if you are on summer break, plan for reading time.

If the student is getting sufficient reading time in class, consider if his or her reading preferences are met. Children usually have a preferred type of reading book. In some cases, their favorite genre might be popular - and there may be more competition for those popular books. Hence the student may not have as much access to their desired books.

On the other hand, if your child prefers something other students consider "uncool", it may hinder their reading time at school.

Read Out Loud To Your Children

This does not stop once your child starts reading. Hearing you read passages above their reading level, but on their comprehension level, will expand all aspects of reading: vocabulary, fluency, comprehension.

How long should you continue reading to your child?

Really, it is never too late. Okay, I'll admit if you tell your teenage son you are going to start reading him a bedtime story you are likely to get a less than positive response. On the other hand, if I'm reading a good book to the younger children, even the teenage boys will lounge around and listen.

Reading to students is a highly effective method of promoting reading comprehension that is over-looked in many homes.

Free Reading Comprehension Worksheets

Practice reading comprehension activities by having the student use our free reading comprehension worksheetsK. These give students the opportunity to practice reading a passage and answering the questions.

How do reading comprehension worksheets or workbooks help? There are several types of comprehension questions that are usually asked:
  • Main Idea
  • Recall of facts
  • Tone and mood
  • Implied meaning
  • Vocabulary
As students practice using reading comprehension worksheets, they can identify the kinds of questions they most frequently miss.

Summarize the Main Point

This is one of the key activities on reading comprehension exams. Simply ask your child the main point of the chapter he or she has just read.

If you are actively working on reading comprehension, have them read a single paragraph and identify the main point.

Narrating the plot of a short book or the chapter of a long book is one of the reading comprehension activities that is used by tutors and homeschool families. When you are able to work one on one with a student, this is an effective method of evaluating what they understood. With practice, the student begins to read with a stronger focus on the important part of the passage.

Supporting Details

Besides the main point, ask for two or three other events or details in the passage. Just as the activity to summarize the main point helps students to focus on the main point, this activity also helps them focus on supporting details. It also gives the child a chance to tell the parts they found interesting or amusing.

Have Incentives for Reading

Incentives for one family will differ from another. Here are some ideas done by different families:
  • Give $3 for every chapter book they read. You set the standard for the type of book and minimum/maximum in a given period of time.
  • Keep track of the number of pages read, and reward pages rather than books.
  • Watch the movie of a classical book after the book is read.
  • I have seen families use everything from pizza, amusement parks, and silly bands as rewards.
  • On the other hand, some families have restricted TV, computers, video games until a certain amount of accepted reading is done.
Remember, the first part of reading comprehension is reading. You need lots of the first to develop the second.

Consider Non-Fiction

Reading comprhension activities for non-fiction may be different than those involving literature or stories.

Non-fiction books often have an outline. Recognizing the order that the material is presented in is a huge first step in grasping the content.

Let's say your child is reading a book about snakes (yep, they had to bring home a book about snakes, right?) Take a few minutes to look at the table of contents. Perhaps it is organized like this:
  • The Snakes Skin
  • Skeleton
  • Digestive System
  • Venom
This book is about the body of snakes. It is different from a book that compares the habitats of different snakes.

Look at the table of contents, ask the student how the author organized information. Before turning the pages, ask what they know about the different topics listed.

Use this strategy several times with books they have chosen. THEN, try the same strategy with a section of their history or science textbook.

One of the main differences between high scoring and low scoring college students is the ability to organize content. Help students at a young age to develop those mental maps.

Reading Comprehension Tests

Is your main concern regarding reading comprehension activities related to getting a high score on standardized tests?

The best practice for these tests is actually practice exams written for the specific test. Ask the teacher or administrator specifically what test will be given. You may be able to go on line and purchase practice tests for that standardized test.

Theoretically, a standardized test measures actual ability, and cannot be prepared for. In reality, familiarity with the format of the test does improve testing. Also, some practice tests give strategies as well.

You need to give yourself three to four months before the test to employ this strategy.

Looking for Reading Resources?

Education Bug has an extensive list of resources, including public libraries and schools, to help raise strong readers. Check out the resource lists on Education Bug website.


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