By Hattie Grace

Reading comprehension can be a difficult skill to master. Students can have trouble remembering facts, understanding themes, recalling characters or figuring out the main idea of a story. Parents can help their child by reading short stories at home, discussing narratives and asking specific questions that will aid in stronger reading comprehension.

Recall Questions

Ask the child basic questions about what happened in the story. These types of questions are referred to as “recall questions.” Recall questions include things such as: Who is the main character? What is her name? Her age? Where does this story take place? What are two events that happen in the story? How does the story end?


Narrative Elements and Higher Order Thinking

Review narrative terms. Discuss the definition of character, setting, main idea, supporting details and plot. When asking questions about a story, use narrative vocabulary. Also, ask questions that require higher order thinking, such as, “Why would the main character do this?” or “Can you predict how the story will end?” Lucy McCormick Calkins, author of “The Art of Teaching Reading,” suggests questions such as, “What does the author want us to figure out?” to teach inference through context clues. She advises parents to model first by making an inference after reading a page and then later, inviting the child to do   the same.

Visualization Techniques

Read a sentence or paragraph with the child and then ask her to visualize what she just  heard. Ask details about her visualization. For instance, “You see a cat in a basket? What color is the cat? How big is the basket? Where is the basket? What is the cat doing in the basket?” Asking the child to visualize in detail will help her make sense of what she has just heard. Eventually, this is what she will do independently after reading.


Discuss Types of Interactions

Ask questions not only about books and stories, but about TV shows, conversations, movies, poems, songs, and newspaper and magazine articles. Reading comprehension is not just about stories, but about everything that must be understood and analyzed. This    includes all social interactions as well. For example, after a phone conversation, ask the child, “Why did that person call? Did she get what she needed from the phone call?” Use every opportunity to ask recall and higher order thinking questions.


Hattie Grace is CEO of Academic Excellence Tutoring Services.  Academic Excellence serves students kindergarten through 12 grades in all subjects.  ACT/SAT prep tutoring and tutoring in college coursework is also offered.  For more information, e-mail

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