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How to Increase Reading Comprehension in Teenagers

by Jennifer Zimmerman, studioD

Comprehension is the entire point of reading. If you can pronounce every word in a recipe but have no idea what the words mean, you're still not going to be able to cook. Teenagers will need good reading comprehension to take tests and to understand textbooks in other subject areas, not to mention fill out the forms for their driver's licenses and checking accounts. Parents of teenagers who don't read well need to learn how to increase reading comprehension in teenagers.

Appropriate Texts

Listen to your teen's reading by having her read out loud to you. If she is reading texts that are difficult for her to read fluently, she will not be able to focus on comprehension, suggests the International Reading Association.

Talk to her teachers about her comprehension needs. Teachers should be able to suggest books at the correct level for students and may know whether students have other reading skill problems that need to be addressed.

Find texts that engage her. While teachers may need to assign certain texts, parents do not. Help your teenager find reading materials that interest her and get her to read voluntarily, whether it's comic books, science articles or age- appropriate romance novels. As levels of engagement increase, so does comprehension, reports the School Library Journal.

Strategies to Increase Comprehension

Encourage your teen to get ready to read. Before she begins reading, your teen should spend a few minutes considering what the text is about and activating any prior knowledge, suggests the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Make sure your teen reviews the format of the text. Narrative fiction is pretty familiar to most teenagers, but news articles and text books can be trickier. Get her used to figuring out the format before she just jumps into a text by letting her read many different kinds of texts in an area that interests her, like a news article, press release, medical study and handbook that all cover the latest video game.

Help her practice monitoring the text while she reads. Readers with good comprehension are constantly making connections, questioning things they don't understand and summarizing what they've learned as they read. Have her use pencils to mark the text she is reading with question marks for questions and exclamation points for connections, or come up with a system of your own to help her monitor her reading.

Model good comprehension. While the International Reading Association often recommends this for younger students, parents of teenagers can try a version of it too. Read the same text as your teenager and monitor your reading with pencil marks or even sticky notes. Then discuss your questions with your teen. Talk about who you think the killer is in the mystery you're both reading and share how you figured it out.

Items you will need
  •  Pencil
  •  Dictionary


  • A good vocabulary can help a lot with understanding. Encourage teenagers to circle or write down words they don't know and look them up online or in the dictionary.


  • Don't forget about making real world connections to stress the importance of reading comprehension. Let her try a complicated recipe or have her try to follow a technical manual to build her new bedroom shelves. A couple of ruined dinners or a book shelf that collapses in the middle of the night may be effective motivators.

About the Author

Jennifer Zimmerman is a former preschool and elementary teacher who has been writing professionally since 2007. She has written numerous articles for The Bump, Band Back Together, Prefab and other websites, and has edited scripts and reports for DWJ Television and Inversion Productions. She is a graduate of Boston University and Lewis and Clark College.

Photo Credits

  • Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images