Reading 101: A Guide for Parents

Comprehension: Activities for Your Kindergartner

Kindergartners are just beginning their journey as readers, yet they are actively absorbing language and experiences to make sense of the world around them. Encourage your child to think and talk about shared oral stories and books that are read aloud. You can also help by exposing your child to lots of interesting words — vocabulary is key to comprehension.

Overview

Try to read at home together every day

Just 15 minutes each day makes a big difference! Reading aloud is a great way to help your kindergartener absorb new words and see how stories are structured. It's also one of the best ways to help children learn about the world and make connections between their own lives and what's in the book — that helps children see the world with empathy. And last but not least, it's a wonderful time to snuggle up with your child and share the experience of reading and discovery together.

Keep it fun 

Remember that reading together should spark curiosity, joy, and a desire to explore and learn. Conversations about books should be enjoyable, and not a set of quizzes and questions. As you try some of the activities listed below, remember to keep it light and lively for your child.

Bring in the nonfiction

There are so many great nonfiction and informational books for very young kids (such as the popular DK Eyewitness series and National Geographic series). Try to include some of these during your next trip to the public library. Children love learning about the real world and are proud to share what they know!

Explore your world together

Even a walk around the neighborhood or a trip to the grocery store can be a rich learning experience for young children. A child may see an urban bunny for the first time on a walk, and then be able to connect it to stories about rabbits. These personal connections help children connect what they read with what they know — a powerful way to build comprehension skills!

Signs of good reading comprehension in kindergartners

Try these comprehension activities at home

"I predict ..."

When you sit down for a read aloud, look at the book's cover together. Ask, "What do you think this book might be about? Why? Can you make some predictions?" Guide your child through the pages, discuss the pictures, and brainstorm what might happen in the story. Talk about any personal experiences your child may have that relate to the story.

Five-finger retell

After reading a story together, have your child tell you five things about the story, using her fingers to talk about each one:

  1. Characters: who was in the story?
  2. Setting: where did the story take place?
  3. Events: what happened in the story?
  4. End: how did the story end?
  5. Favorite character or part of the story

Active reading

Model active reading when you read with your child. Talk about what's happening as you're reading. Stop and discuss any interesting or tricky vocabulary words. Help your child make pictures of the story in his mind. Ask your child, "What just happened here? How do you think that character feels? Have you ever felt like that? What do you think will happen next?" Not only will this develop your child’s comprehension, but critical thinking skills as well.

Mind movies

When you come to a descriptive passage in a book, have your child close her eyes and create a mental movie of the scene. Encourage her to use all five senses. Read the passage over together, looking for details that bring the scene to life. Ask questions like, “How do you know it was a hot day? Which words help you understand that the child was lonely?”

Tell me about it

After a read aloud, one of the best and easiest ways to check for understanding is to ask your child to summarize what the book was about in their own words. You can ask a question or two to help your child clarify her thinking or to add more detail.

Can your child tell you what happened in the story?

This video is from Home Reading Helper, a resource for parents to elevate children’s reading at home provided by Read Charlotte. Find more video, parent activities, printables, and other resources at Home Reading Helper.

Think alouds

Connect the book to your child's own life experience. For example, A River Dream: "This book reminds me of the time my father took me fishing. Do you remember the time we went fishing?"

Connect the book to other books they have read. For example, Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: "This story reminds me of Cinderella. Both stories are about sisters. Do you know any other stories about nice and mean sisters? Let's keep reading to find out other ways the stories are similar."

Connect the book to big ideas/lessons. For example, Stellaluna: "This story helps me understand that we are all the same in many ways, but it's our differences that make us special."

Wordless

Wordless picture books provide your child with practice using clues to create meaning. There are no wrong stories with wordless picture books, only variations based on what the "reader" sees and puts together. Rosie's Walk, Good Dog, Carl, and Beaver Is Lost are all interesting and fun wordless picture books to explore. Find more wordless books on BookFinder.

Family stories

This is a wonderful activity for a family picnic or for a rainy day when you're snuggled together on the couch. Share a favorite story about your childhood or a family story that's been passed down from generation to generation. Use vivid language and details about people, places, and things. Funny or scary will really get your child's attention! Your child will probably have lots of questions, which keeps the storytelling alive. You could also ask your child if she has a favorite family story of her own.

How sharing your stories helps kids with reading

Beginning readers love to hear stories about a parent's childhood! A parent's stories help children learn new vocabulary, story structure, and comprehension. (From GreatSchools)

Map this book!

Draw a map of the book's setting, and be sure to include the places where the main action happens!

Beginning-middle-end

This is a great way to see if your child understands the main parts of a story. After reading a book together, give your child three sheets of paper, with "beginning" on one sheet, "middle" on the second sheet, and "end" on the third sheet. Ask your child to think about the three parts of the story, and then draw what happened on each on the sheets. Arrange the sheets in order, left to right. What happens if you re-arrange the sheets? Does the story still make sense?

Words, words, words

Be sure to include books with rich vocabulary in your read alouds and call attention to interesting words and phrases from the story. This may include repeated phrases or idioms (such as "get cold feet" or "I'm all ears"). Offer a kid-friendly definition and connect the new word or phrase to something your child already knows.Talk about how the author used language or words to make the text interesting, informative, funny, or sad.

Picture walk

Talk about the book before you read it. Show the cover illustration and ask your child to predict what the book is about. Flip through the book, look closely at the pictures together, and talk about what's on the jacket flaps.

Take a picture walk

This video is from Home Reading Helper, a resource for parents to elevate children’s reading at home provided by Read Charlotte. Find more video, parent activities, printables, and other resources at Home Reading Helper.

Remember when ...?

Connect what your child reads with what happens in life. If reading a book about birds, relate it to birds you've seen on walks in your neighborhood. 

Story detectives

As you read with your child, stop and ask questions such as: What’s happening in the picture? Why do you think the puppy is sad? Have you felt that way yourself? Why do you think the spider wanted to help the pig? What do you think is going to happen next? How do you think the story will end? Take turns and let your child to “be the detective” and ask you questions about the book. Not only will this develop your child’s comprehension, but critical thinking skills as well.

Picture the character (Part 1)

Try this activity from the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR). The FCRR "At Home" series was developed especially for families! Watch the video and then download the activity: Picture the Character. See all FCRR comprehension activities here.

Picture the character (Part 2)

Try this activity from the Florida Center for Reading Research (FCRR). The FCRR "At Home" series was developed especially for families! Watch the video and then download the activity: Picture the Character. See all FCRR comprehension activities here.

Does your kindergartner read to learn about things?

More comprehension resources

"I feel the need of reading. It is a loss to a man not to have grown up among books." —

Abraham Lincoln