My son is in third grade. His reading seems to have progressed quite well or at least I thought it had. He can read aloud quite well. His decoding skills seem to be ok. I am however, concerned with his comprehension. It seems as though now that he is in third grade he doesn't read aloud as much as he reads silently. He is required to read books of his choice for class as the teacher keeps track of the books they read on a chart and she has time set aside during the day when all of the children and the teacher drop everything and read. Because of this classroom practice, he always has a book that he is reading. The other day when I saw him reading at home, I sat down and asked him about the story. He was half way through the book and was very vague about the story and wasn't sure about how all the characters fit into the story although he did know their names. He seemed to get upset that I would ask him questions about the story. Do you have any suggestions about how I can help him? It seems as though if we don't deal with this problem now that it will only get worse. Thank you for any help that you can offer.

Comprehension is critical at any age, but when children are reading chapter books with less pictures, weak comprehension skills tend to show up. Recently a mom wrote to classroomtalk that her child was having difficulty reading beginning chapter books. The answer to that question might be of help, so I would suggest that you look at the answer to that question under older entries.

In addition, I would make sure that he is reading books that are at a comfortable level. We call them, “just right books,” not too easy or too hard. I would suggest that he read books with less complicated plot and shorter chapters. Another suggestion is to make sure that he is reading books that he is interested in. Many boys love sports stories or mysteries. Many grade 3 students also love the information they can gather from nonfiction books. There are for example, many books about famous athletes. Many students enjoy learning about the lives of the athletes they look up to. Check out the selections for NFL, NBA, NHL, or MLB athletes that might be of interest to your son. He might also be interested in short magazine articles such as those found in Sports Illustrated for Kids or Ranger Rick. Comprehension seems to improve when children want to find out specific information.

Back to fiction books. Make sure that your son knows to read either the information on the book jacket or the blurb on the back of the book. We assume everyone knows to do this but young children need a heads up that this information will give them a little preview of what the book is about.

Again, please check out the older entry about beginning chapter books. There is a specific strategy for working with a young reader as he reads chapter by chapter.

Good Luck. Let us know how things work out. Many parents have the same issue with their young readers. We can share our triumphs.