Ever thought your child’s reading book was too easy? Here’s why you might want to reconsider before pushing for a harder one.

Ever thought your child’s reading book was too easy? Here’s why you might want to reconsider before pushing for a harder one.

Reading comprehension primary school

Let’s set the scene; your child comes home with a new reading book in their book bag. After a bit of coaxing, perhaps a little bribery, you eventually get them to agree to read to you. And they read it brilliantly. Effortlessly!

You enthusiastically congratulate your child on excellent reading and jot a note straight into their reading diary. You write that your child read brilliantly, this book is too easy! And request that their teacher move them on to a harder book.

But are they really ready?

I’ve been asking one of our teaching experts Michelle, a primary teacher with 15 years of experience, for insights into what teachers wish parents understood more about.

Her answer might surprise you…

“One of the main things for me would be parents commenting that their child’s reading book is too easy and pushing for ‘harder books’ to be sent home (If I had £1 for every parent who asked this I would be a billionaire!)”

I hold my hand up, I am guilty of this myself! So, why is this an issue?

“I think parents don’t realise how important comprehension is when reading – many children can read well i.e. fluently but sometimes struggle to understand what they have just read or where to find information to answer a question, particularly inference style questions (using the information to make a good guess – ‘reading between the lines)”.

So, why wouldn’t they understand it?

Once a child has a good grasp of phonics and of common spelling pattens they’ll be able to read or “decode” virtually any word. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll understand the meaning of those words or how they fit into the context of a story.

The level of a reading book is as much about being able to understand the vocabulary and the complexity of a storyline as the ability to read the words, according to the grammar.

What is reading comprehension?

Simply put, reading comprehension is the ability to understand what you are reading, the content and concept of a text, as opposed to being able to recognise or phonetically decode a page or book full of words.

Why is reading comprehension so important?

Reading comprehension is a combination of skills that transfer to all subjects and indeed all areas of life, for instance;

  • Critical thinking – making connections, reflecting, analysing and questioning things.
  • Problem-solving skills – using context to understand what new words mean. Working out why a character did or said something.
  • Empathy – understanding characters; their experiences, their motivations, actions and feelings.

A student who can master reading comprehension will not only have high chances of becoming an avid reader and cultured person but also be a higher-achieving professional in nearly all areas of knowledge.Quoted from Eastern Washington University.

How to improve reading comprehension?

There are many ways to help your child improve their reading comprehension skills. Here are some ideas…

Build vocabulary:

Introduce a “word of the day”. Read aloud to children even when they can read themselves. Provide exposure to a large variety of books. Listen to a variety of podcasts. Watch documentaries. Go to the theatre. Talk! Anything that exposes children to language will build their vocabulary.

Chunk the text:

After reading the book once with no interruptions, choose a small section to read again, then ask a simple retrieval question where the answer is clearly evident in the text, for example ‘How old was the boy?’ In this way, children only need to process a little information at a time rather than being overwhelmed by a whole page/s.

Work on reading fluency

The more fluently a child can read the more their brain can focus on comprehending the meaning of a story rather than decoding the words.

Encourage reading with expression.

Children need to learn grammar and use this as a clue for their intonation and speed of reading but they can only read with real expression; conveying emotion, tone and context, if they understand the text.

Talk to their teacher

Communicate with your child’s teacher. What strategies do they use in school to enhance reading comprehension? Their teacher will have valuable insights into your child’s progress and can provide tailored recommendations to further support their development.

Play Busy Things!

Busy Things includes many phonics, literacy and reading comprehension games and activities to engage your child, suitable for ages 3 up to 11! You can try them all for free.

Before asking for a harder reading book – Consider this:

So next time, absolutely continue with those enthusiastic congratulations on excellent reading, but also do a little digging into how much your child really understands about what they have just read.

Here’s a few things to think about before you ask for a harder book:

  1. Can your child repeat the story back to you?
  2. Can they answer you if you asked them what happened after X in the story
  3. Can you ask your child to find answers to questions about the text?
  4. Could they tell you why X Character said this? or acted that way?
  5. Point out certain words, ask them what they mean? If they don’t, does the context give them a clue?
  6. Do they like the story / characters? Why?

Nurture a love of reading:

Building strong reading comprehension skills takes time. It’s a gradual process that requires patience and consistent effort. To encourage a love of reading, celebrate small victories and improvements and avoid the temptation to rush through to more challenging books.

Of course, your child may well be ready to move on to harder book. Collaborate with their teacher to find out if they are really ready.

Have you ever asked for a harder reading book? I hope this insight into school reading books and reading comprehension has been useful. Please do leave us a comment with your thoughts…

Try phonics and reading comprehension games for free!

Take a free trial of Busy Things to access to all of our award-winning phonics games and interactive reading comprehension activities. Plus, a huge selection of activities and games exploring ALL the other primary curriculum subjects too! Including MathsScienceGeographyHistoryCoding and Art.

You might also be interested in:

For top tips to help your child enjoy reading head to: How to enjoy reading: 10 ways to encourage children to love reading.

Learn more about phonics teaching methods in our blog How Playing Phonics Games can Improve your Child’s Reading.

Get ready for the Year 1 phonics screening check with Everything you need to know about the Year 1 Phonics Screening Check

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