What is reading comprehension – for a child

what is reading comprehension

To put it simple: you read a text and you understand what they mean. When I talk about small things with the neighbor, we understand each other. If I repeat the same conversation in another part of the Netherlands, locally words (or dialect) will be added unnoticed. You still know what it’s about, but you’re starting to lose details.

Knowledge of the Dutch words

Reading comprehension is based a lot on word knowledge. The more words you understand of a text, the more you will understand. For example, if I read a French text, my word knowledge is lower than with an English or Dutch text. The same applies for children in primary school. They are busy in their developing. Also with their vocabulary. For example, a child in 8th grade may possess the word knowledge that is believed to belong to 7th grade. So it will understand less of the text that is filled with too difficult words. He won’t be there until next year.


With words, the meaning is quite literal. With proverbs that is figurative. If there is an occasional proverb used in a text and you have never heard of it, then you will be taking it literally in your head.

Suppose, for example, that somewhere in a text it is stated that the apple does not fall far from the tree and the story is about a son who likes to sit on a tractor just like his father. If you don’t know the proverb, you won’t understand the connection. You’re missing a piece.

Missing a bit is not a bad thing in itself. At best, your child ignores the apple and the tree. But it is also possible that the fantasy of the child fills in this part. For example, he thinks the tractor is driving past apple trees. Or the son on the tractor has to endure a rain of apples while driving his father’s tractor.

However, if there is a question in the test about proverbs, there is only a 50% chance that the correct answer will be given.

Adv. reading comprehension

Group 7 elementary school

Group 8 elementary school

Reading speed and word recognition

Medium or high reading speed is fine for a child. It has a limited influence on the answers a child gives to the questions. Fast readers often also recognize the words they read. Exceptions.

Recognizing words as you read is a weakness for some children. Sometimes a child has to read a text 2 or 3 times before it understands what the text is about. Often they also read slower because we slow down when the going gets tough. The time problem doubles this way and your child may not have enough time to answer the questions. Or it thinks it has too little time and starts to gamble the answers a little to save time.

Tutoring with me does not help with recognizing words. It’s probably a medical block. During the tutoring I can see if a child is gambling a bit or if it is really looking for the answers.

Knowledge of Grammar

Knowledge of Grammar is still limited in primary school. Most sentences are written short and therefore fairly simple in structure. No grammar is added yet that we don’t use in our everyday colloquialisms.

As long as a child understands referential words, he has made the greatest strides in this grammatical field.

In secondary school it is the turn of the longer sentences that have been contrived by the various writers. Writers who have the Dutch language as a hobby. After high school you fall back into study books where the writers keep the sentences short again. There is hardly any need for grammatical knowledge anymore. Especially if the study switches to English.

General knowledge and insider knowledge

Unfortunately, reading comprehension is also about general knowledge and prior knowledge. When we read something in our field, there are often technical terms that we already understand. It is a kind of word knowledge with an extra layer.

In primary school, a child’s general knowledge is also expected during the reading comprehension test. In other articles I have already written about the different months of the year. What number has a month. When is spring and when is autumn. When do the leaves fall from a tree?

Knowledge of proverbs probably falls under general knowledge. After all, it is taught.

Text structure

Fairy tales, study books, web blogs, newspapers, poems. They are all written in some form. The cito texts in primary school also have a certain structure.

Through practice, a child develops an approach to reading that fits these texts. They are very focused on certain types of questions.

One of the things we teach children is that the picture puts something over a text. Looking at a picture they can already think about the content.

We also teach children that the title of the text should say something about the content. Titles on websites / in newspapers / in advertisements are often written suggestively. They take advantage of the fact that we have learned that the title is a reflection of the text.

The chronological order of the story sometimes comes back as a test. Here children are given the task of putting the different paragraphs in the correct order of occurrence.

Children can do this well. If they do it wrong, it is in the form of the question. Sometimes they do not understand the question, even though they do have the answer in them.

Motivation of reading

Reading consists of several parts. Motivation is one of them. Older children generally read something to learn more about the subject. Hopefully, by delving into a particular field, they will find answers to possible questions they may have.

Primary school children are eager to learn. For example, they read books about MineCraft or want to be the best at a game and read about tricks. However, they never read to learn how to read themselves. Reading a story and answering questions about it is often the most boring thing they can do.

If you are lucky as a parent, your child will find it (re)exciting to read a story book or the Donald Duck. But with the YouTube, the games, there are plenty of competitors that find them more exciting and crowd out reading.

Reading comprehension: small clue to help your child

Reading comprehension is a combination of factors as briefly mentioned above. You can partly practice how well your child reads a text. For example, by offering a fixed structure: in reading and in finding answers.

Have your child follow the same fixed structure during a home exercise. If they look questioningly at you, they need some help. So just sit there for half an hour. Then only explain to them what they want to know at the time. This way you help them in small steps. What they want to do themselves, they have to do themselves. They also learn from their mistakes.

Children like it when they get something. For example, promotion to a higher level. In your child’s report card, you can probably see the level of reading in class. That’s a good starting point.

They also love a sticker after an exercise. You can collect them on a separate sheet. And maybe hang it somewhere.

Prefer to book an extra lesson?

Scroll to Top