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Increasing Reading Comprehension by Activating Prior Knowledge

By Edited Jul 27, 2015 4 10
Many students are not able to relate to a text when they are reading. They feel like they are just forced to read something that has nothing to do with them. One of the best things you can do to help a struggling reader increase reading comprehension (and why he or she is reading it), is help them to relate to a text. Good readers always do this without thinking about it, but it is a skill that can be easily learned.

It takes time and effort to increase reading comprehension. First, pick a text to read with your child. It should be age appropriate and interesting to the child. If your child is not a reader, pick something that is similar to the child's favorite television show or movie. Check your local book store or favorite book selling website. Many popular children's television shows and movies sometimes have books written to tell other stories with the characters.

Once you have found a book that will work, read it with your child and help them to look for connections to the text so they can practice activating prior knowledge. When good readers read a book, they often find things in the book that will remind them of their own experiences or experiences of others. For example, if you are reading one of the Harry Potter books, you may find yourself remembering how difficult fitting in at school was when you were a child. Making these kind of connections help the reader to understand the book and empathize with the characters, which will then increase reading comprehension. They begin to see themselves in the book and relate to the story.

A lot of times students immediately say that the book doesn't remind them of anything in their lives. Do not settle for that kind of answer! They do not need to find deep and meaningful connections at first. The first ones can be very surface level just to practice. If the only connection your son can find with Harry Potter is that they are both boys, then go with it. Deeper, more thematic connections will come with time and practice as they increase reading comprehension and improve reading speed.

Making a connection with a book is a learned skill for struggling readers. Start slowly. First read books that will be easy to connect with, and then move on to more difficult books that will be interesting and more difficult to read. Over time, the child will find it easier and easier to make connections with a text they must read. Then, instead of seeing words on a page that make no sense, they will begin to see characters and stories that they can relate to and remember.


Jan 3, 2010 7:47pm
Very nice article. I think it's important to help your children with reading, so they understand and enjoy it. Reading will someday be a lost art form.
Jan 3, 2010 9:09pm
@jcmayer777 - Thanks for the comment! You know, I've heard that more people are reading now due to the bad economy - cheap entertainment! I hope the trend continues.
Jan 13, 2010 2:03pm
Fantastic article!!!! I tutor kids struggling with reading and this is great information!
Jan 13, 2010 7:07pm
Awesome! I hope this info can help. :) I work with struggling readers everyday at my "real" job, so I plan to write some more articles like this.
Jan 13, 2010 3:05pm
Great article. I was a slow reader as a child, and I am so happy that teachers took the time to help me. I love to read now, although I am still a bit of a slow reader, my love for books came from the people who had the time to work with me.
Jan 13, 2010 7:09pm
Despite their best efforts, I've turned ninth graders who have never read a book before into readers who won't stop reading. It's one of the greatest accomplishments as a teacher. I'm glad you had such good ones.
Jul 14, 2010 6:59pm
Great advice. I love your point about not expecting the connections to be deep at first.
Aug 23, 2010 6:39pm
Wonderful idea and easy to implement in time. Thank you for sharing it.
Sep 29, 2010 8:02pm
What a great article! Amazing job writing this, and you should definitely write a ton that are just as amazing as this one!
Dec 1, 2010 9:24pm
This is spot on. When I was a kid I loved to read sports books and it was toally because I could identify with the subject matter. I used to love Clair Bee's Chip Hilton Series for this reason.
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