The 3 Keys to Comprehension: how to improve your children’s reading skills

How to help your kids to improve their reading skills

Skillful reading is the key to excellence in all areas of school and life. Skillful readers use their knowledge of words, sentence structure, and specific subject areas to comprehend complex texts. To fully comprehend complex texts, students need an expansive vocabulary, an analytical understanding of the logical relationships between and within sentences, and a comprehensive understanding of areas such as history, literature, and current events. In short, a skillful reader has a profound and growing knowledge about the world and about words.

How do children become skillful readers?

Phonics is the foundation of all reading skills because it is the knowledge of the sounds that letters make. When students know the sounds that letters make, they are able to decode new words by “sounding them out”. Students who don’t have a strong phonetic foundation rely on memorizing sight words and have a very difficult time decoding new words. Phonics leads to fluency, and fluency precedes comprehension. Students cannot comprehend what they are reading if their minds are struggling with recognizing and decoding words.

After building a strong phonetic foundation, students need to develop an analytical view of words and sentences by studying morphology, etymology, and syntax. Morphology is the study of the structure of words, and etymology is the study of the origins of words. When students learn words by studying their structures and origins, they develop the ability to decode new words and add them to their vocabulary quickly and more effectively. Syntax (or grammar) is the study of the rules which govern how words and groups of words can be arranged to communicate complete, coherent sentences. Grammar is the language about language, and students cannot think and talk about language effectively until they understand the rules that govern its construction. When students understand the parts of speech and the parts of sentences, they are much more capable of creating and understanding written texts. Phonics, vocabulary, and grammar are, therefore, the three keys to comprehension.