Helping boys with comprehension is paramount.

“James often plows right through reading, decoding words but not comprehending.”

“I can tell that Samuel doesn’t get the meaning as he works through a text.”

“Alex just gives up.”

Sound familiar?

As a teacher and tutor with 20+ years’ experience, I think that comprehension is probably one of the hardest areas for your son to grasp and one that often needs parent involvement.

Before Reading

Discover what you son already knows by tapping into his prior knowledge.  Often boys know more than we credit them for – draw out those ideas that are swirling around in his head.  You son will comprehend better if he can make a connection between the text, his life and the world at large.


During Reading

Start off by asking your son,Does this make sense?” If the answer is no, use the most basic fix-up techniques of rereading, reading ahead, skipping or filling in a word. 

One could argue, however, that if a child didn’t ‘get it’ the first time, then re-reading the text won’t help. 

So try this tip: When your son reads, encourage him to have an inner conversation with the text. Does he respond with excitement, humour, wonder, even anger?  If your son questions the text, disagrees with the author or nods his head in agreement then he’s better able to connect ideas, make inferences and better understand what he’s reading. 

Encourage your son to form a mental image from the clues in the text/book.

We want our boys to recognise how important their thinking is when they read – even from an early age.

To add fun use sticky notes to jot down ideas, questions, points, pictures – I find that boys of all ages enjoy doing this.

The famed children’s author Madeleine L’Engle says, “Readers usually grossly underestimate their own importance. If a reader cannot create a book along with the writer, the book will never come to life. . . . The author and the reader ‘know’ each other. They meet in the bridge of words.”


After Reading

Comprehension must be guided with deeper questions. Not the usual how, why, where, who, when but asking How is X like Y?  Why is X important?  What conclusions can you draw about Y?

 There is strong evidence to show that helping boys to ask deep questions in order to build explanations is beneficial to student learning – in all subject areas, not just reading.


Finding the right books

Generally, your son should recognize 80 – 90% of the words in the books.  Stopping too often will interrupt the flow and will just cause confusion as he tries to focus on the overall meaning.

Also, the text should fire them up to start reading so choose stories that interest them!

Most important of all, make time for reading.  With practice comes reading comprehension.


Check out our blogs for more ideas and tips.

Five Tips for Helping Boys with Reading Comprehension

What to do when your son hates reading – 6 top tips

Brought to you by Tanya Grambower

Literacy For Boys Reading in Action