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8 Top Tips to Improve Kids’ Reading Skills [2024 Step-By-Step Guide]

Reading comprehension can be a challenging skill for children to develop, as it requires mastering a number of key underlying abilities. To fully understand what they are reading, kids need to have a strong grasp of fundamental skills like decoding, fluency, vocabulary, and more.

Fortunately, there are essential reading skills and free reading resources that can be employed at home and in the school setting to help struggling readers build these essential skills. In this guide, we will dive into the core components of reading comprehension and explore effective ways to support children in becoming more proficient, engaged, and confident readers.

A Complete Guide to Improve Reading Skills for Kids [2024]

Part 1. What are Reading Skills?

Reading comprehension is a complex process that requires mastering various underlying skills. From decoding words to understanding sentence structure and cohesion, these core reading skills are essential for children to become proficient, engaged readers, here is a glance at types of reading skills and strategies.

Foundational Reading SkillsDecodingDecoding is a fundamental reading skill that involves recognizing and converting written letters and words into their corresponding sounds.
Sentence Structure and CohesionSentence structure and cohesion are reading skills that involve understanding how words, phrases, and sentences are logically connected to convey meaning.
VocabularyExpose children to a wide range of words, both through direct instruction and incidental learning.
Fluency and ComprehensionFluencyEncourage repeated reading of the same text to improve accuracy, speed, and prosody (expression).
Comprehension StrategiesTeach children active reading techniques, such as predicting, questioning, clarifying, and summarizing, Critical Analysis.
Background KnowledgeBuild children’s background knowledge through activities, discussions, and exposure to diverse topics and experiences.
Supporting Cognitive ProcessesWorking MemoryIncorporate memory-boosting exercises, such as repeating information, visualization, and verbal rehearsal.
Attention and FocusFoster concentration and engagement by using multimodal approaches, incorporating movement, and providing engaging, relevant content.

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Part 2. 8 Tips To Improve Reading Comprehension Skill Easily

To help children develop strong reading comprehension, it’s important to focus on building foundational skills like decoding, fluency, and vocabulary. By employing effective strategies at home and in the classroom, parents and educators can support students in becoming more proficient, engaged readers.

8 Top Tips to Improve Kids’ Reading Skills [2024 Step-By-Step Guide] - WuKong Blog


Decoding is a crucial reading skill that forms the foundation for other essential reading abilities. It involves the process of connecting individual letters or letter combinations to their corresponding sounds, allowing the reader to pronounce and recognize words.

Example to understand decoding:

When a child sees the word “cat,” they use their knowledge of letter-sound relationships to break down the word into its individual sounds – /c/, /a/, /t/. By blending these sounds together, the child is able to pronounce the word and understand its meaning.

The role of decoding:

Decoding is vital for reading comprehension. It enables readers to accurately identify words, which is the first step in extracting meaning from the text. Without strong decoding skills, readers may struggle to understand the overall message or content.

A Step-by-Step guide to improve decoding skills:

Step-by-Step guideDescription
Phonics InstructionProvide systematic, explicit teaching of letter-sound correspondences, phonemic awareness, and blending/segmenting skills.
Phonological Awareness ActivitiesEngage children in rhyming, syllable counting, and sound manipulation exercises to strengthen their phonological processing abilities.
Decodable BooksUse reading materials that contain words composed of the letter-sound relationships the child has already learned, allowing them to practice and reinforce decoding.
Multisensory ApproachesIncorporate visual, auditory, and kinesthetic elements to help children make stronger connections between letters, sounds, and words.
Repeated ReadingEncourage children to read the same text multiple times to improve fluency and automaticity in word recognition.

Recommended resources:

  • Phonics-based reading programs (e.g., Orton-Gillingham, Sounds-Write)
  • Decodable readers and leveled books
  • Phonological awareness activity books
  • Interactive phonics apps and games

By systematically developing decoding skills through a variety of engaging and multisensory approaches, children can build a strong foundation for successful reading comprehension and overall academic achievement.

2.Sentence Structure and Cohesion

Sentence Structure and Cohesion are essential reading skills that involve understanding how sentences are constructed and how ideas are connected within and across sentences.

Example to understand decoding:

Sentence structure refers to the way in which words are arranged to form a complete and meaningful sentence. For example, the basic sentence structure in English is subject-verb-object, as in “The cat chased the mouse.” Recognizing and comprehending different sentence structures, such as compound, complex, or compound-complex sentences, is important for reading fluency and understanding.

Cohesion, on the other hand, is the ability to connect ideas and concepts within and between sentences. This includes understanding how pronouns, conjunctions, and other linguistic devices are used to link ideas and create a coherent flow of information. For instance, the sentence “The dog ran across the yard. It barked loudly” exhibits cohesion, as the pronoun “it” links the second sentence to the first.

The role of sentence structure and cohesion:

Mastering these skills is crucial for reading comprehension. Understanding how sentences are structured and how ideas are connected helps readers decode the meaning of a text, follow the logical flow of information, and make inferences about the relationships between concepts. This, in turn, supports their overall understanding and ability to engage with the content.

A Step-by-Step guide to improve decoding skills:

  1. Explicit instruction: Teach the basic elements of sentence structure (subject, verb, object) and how different sentence types are formed.
  2. Analysis of sample texts: Examine how authors use sentence variety and cohesive devices to convey meaning.
  3. Sentence-combining exercises: Practice combining simple sentences into more complex, cohesive structures.
  4. Paragraph writing practice: Encourage children to write their own paragraphs, focusing on maintaining cohesion through the use of transition words and pronouns.
  5. Peer editing and revision: Have children review each other’s writing to identify areas for improving sentence structure and cohesion.

Recommended resources:

  • Wukong’s ELA resources on sentence structure and cohesion (e.g., sentence structure worksheets, cohesion activities)
  • Sentence-building workbooks and grammar-focused educational materials
  • Paragraph-writing exercises and lesson plans
  • Mentor texts that demonstrate effective sentence structure and cohesion

By developing a strong understanding of sentence structure and cohesion, children can enhance their overall reading comprehension skills, as well as improve their own writing abilities.


Vocabulary is a fundamental component of reading skills that is crucial for reading comprehension. It refers to the set of words that an individual understands and can use effectively when reading, writing, and communicating.


Example to understand decoding:

For example, if a child is reading a story about a farm, having a strong vocabulary related to farm animals, farm equipment, and agricultural terms would greatly enhance their understanding of the text. Without this relevant vocabulary, the child may struggle to comprehend the meaning and context of the story.

The role of vocabulary:

Vocabulary is a key pillar of reading comprehension. The more words a reader understands, the more they can extract meaning from the text. Strong vocabulary skills allow readers to recognize and define unfamiliar words, make connections between concepts, and ultimately gain a deeper understanding of the content.

A Step-by-Step guide to cultivate vocabulary:

  1. Explicit vocabulary instruction: Directly teach new words, their meanings, and how to use them in context.
  2. Extensive reading: Expose children to a wide range of texts, which expands their vocabulary through repeated exposure to new words.
  3. Vocabulary notebooks/logs: Encourage children to keep track of new words they encounter and their definitions.
  4. Word games and activities: Use engaging, interactive methods like flashcards, word puzzles, and vocabulary-building apps.
  5. Contextual learning: Discuss the meaning of unfamiliar words within the context of the reading material.
  6. Morphological awareness: Teach children to recognize and understand word roots, prefixes, and suffixes to decipher the meanings of unknown words.

Recommended resources:

  • Leveled readers and subject-specific texts
  • Vocabulary-building workbooks and activity books
  • Vocabulary-focused educational apps and websites
  • Vocabulary resources (e.g., word lists, vocabulary games)

By actively building and reinforcing a child’s vocabulary through a variety of engaging and targeted strategies, you can significantly enhance their reading comprehension skills and their overall understanding of the texts they encounter.


Fluency is a crucial reading skill that enhances a child’s reading speed, accuracy, and understanding of texts. It involves the ability to read smoothly, at a good pace, and with proper expression, without excessive pausing or word-by-word reading.

Example to understand fluency:

For example, a fluent reader can easily read the sentence “The cat jumped over the fence” as a single, cohesive unit, rather than struggling to decode each word individually. Fluency allows the reader to focus on comprehending the meaning of the text.

The role of fluency:

Fluency is essential for effective reading comprehension. When a reader is fluent, they can devote more cognitive resources to understanding the content and meaning of the text, rather than expending significant effort on decoding individual words. Fluency helps bridge the gap between word recognition and comprehension skills.

A Step-by-Step guide to improve fluency skills:

  1. Repeated reading: Encourage children to read the same text multiple times to improve their pace, accuracy, and expression.
  2. Modeled reading: Have an adult or more proficient reader model fluent reading, allowing children to hear and emulate the appropriate rhythm, intonation, and phrasing.
  3. Choral reading: Read along with the child, maintaining the same pace and expression to provide support and scaffolding.
  4. Reader’s theater: Engage children in dramatic, expressive reading of scripts or plays to enhance their fluency and prosody.
  5. Fluency-focused activities: Use resources like timed reading exercises, fluency-building passages, and accompanied reading to target specific fluency components.

Recommended resources:

  • Leveled reading books and passages
  • Fluency-focused reading programs (e.g., Fluency Instruction Toolkit, Reading Fluency)
  • Reader’s theater scripts and materials

By consistently practicing fluent reading, children can develop the necessary word recognition skills, reading speed, and prosody to support their overall reading comprehension and enhance their understanding of a wide range of texts.

5.Comprehension Strategies

Comprehension Strategies are the specific techniques and approaches that readers can use to actively engage with and understand the texts they are reading. These strategies help readers extract meaning, make connections, and deepen their understanding of the content.

Some key comprehension strategies include:

Comprehension StrategiesDescription
Activating Prior KnowledgeConnecting new information in the text to what the reader already knows, which helps them contextualize and make sense of the content.
Making PredictionsUsing clues from the text, such as titles, images, or prior knowledge, to anticipate what might happen or what the text is about.
Asking QuestionsGenerating questions before, during, and after reading to clarify understanding, resolve confusion, and deepen engagement with the text.
VisualizingCreating mental images or representations of the information in the text, which can aid comprehension and retention.
SummarizingIdentifying and synthesizing the key ideas, events, or information in a text to demonstrate overall understanding.
InferencingUsing textual evidence and prior knowledge to “read between the lines” and draw logical conclusions that are not explicitly stated.
Monitoring ComprehensionActively checking one’s own understanding, identifying areas of confusion, and employing strategies to resolve those difficulties.

The role of comprehension strategies:

Effective use of comprehension strategies empowers readers to actively engage with the text, construct meaning, and overcome challenges they may encounter. These strategies help readers move beyond a passive, surface-level understanding and develop deeper, more meaningful comprehension.

Tips for improve comprehension strategies:

  1. Explicit instruction: Directly teach each comprehension strategy, modeling its use and providing guided practice.
  2. Think-alouds: Demonstrate how to apply the strategies by verbalizing your own thought processes as you read.
  3. Collaborative learning: Engage students in group discussions and activities that involve using the strategies together.
  4. Gradual release of responsibility: Start with teacher-led modeling, then provide guided practice before allowing independent application of the strategies.
  5. Ongoing practice and reinforcement: Provide opportunities for students to consistently apply the strategies across a variety of texts and contexts.

Recommended resources:

  • Children’s literature that lends itself well to strategy-based instruction
  • Comprehension strategy guidebooks and teaching materials
  • Educational apps or digital tools that incorporate strategy-based activities

6.Background Knowledge and Reasoning

Background Knowledge and Reasoning are essential components of reading comprehension skills. Here’s an explanation of these concepts, Background knowledge refers to the information, experiences, and understanding that a reader brings to the text they are reading. This includes knowledge about the topic, relevant vocabulary, cultural references, and prior experiences that can help the reader make connections and derive meaning from the content.

Background Knowledge and Reasoning

For example, if a child is reading a story about a family taking a trip to the beach, their background knowledge about beaches, activities at the beach, and family vacations could help them better understand and engage with the text.

The role of background knowledge:

Strong background knowledge allows readers to activate relevant schemata (mental frameworks) to process new information more effectively. It helps them make inferences, draw conclusions, and relate the content to their own lives, leading to deeper comprehension.

Techniques to build background knowledge:

  1. Pre-reading activities: Engage children in discussions, videos, or hands-on experiences related to the topic before reading the text.
  2. Vocabulary building: Teach key vocabulary words and concepts to establish a foundation for understanding the content.
  3. Making connections: Encourage children to make connections between the text and their own experiences or prior knowledge.
  4. Exposure to diverse texts: Provide opportunities to read a wide range of materials on different subjects to expand their knowledge.
  5. Interdisciplinary learning: Integrate reading comprehension with other subject areas, such as science or social studies, to reinforce and apply background knowledge.

Reasoning and Inference:

Reasoning and inference skills involve the ability to draw logical conclusions, make educated guesses, and read between the lines to understand the implicit meanings in a text. This requires the reader to actively engage with the information, make connections, and use their background knowledge to fill in the gaps.

7.Working Memory

Working Memory is another essential cognitive skill that is closely linked to reading comprehension. It refers to the ability to hold and manipulate information in the mind for a short period of time.

For instance, when reading a multi-paragraph passage, a child with strong working memory can keep track of the main ideas, key details, and how they relate to one another, rather than forgetting information as they progress through the text. This allows them to build a coherent understanding of the content.

The role of working memory:

Working memory plays a crucial role in reading comprehension, as it enables readers to:

  • Hold onto and process the information they are reading
  • Make inferences and connections between different parts of the text
  • Build a coherent understanding of the overall meaning

Without robust working memory skills, readers may struggle to retain and integrate the information they encounter, making it difficult to engage with the text at a deeper level.

Techniques to improve working memory:

  1. Chunking information: Break down longer passages into smaller, more manageable segments. This helps reduce the cognitive load on working memory.
  2. Rehearsal and repetition: Encourage the reader to repeat or summarize key information. This reinforces their ability to hold and manipulate the information.
  3. Visualization exercises: Ask the reader to create mental images or diagrams to represent the information they are reading. This can aid working memory by providing a visual representation.
  4. Working memory-focused games and activities: Engage in games and exercises that specifically challenge and strengthen working memory skills, such as memory matching games or sequence-remembering activities.
  5. Breaks and physical activity: Incorporate regular breaks and physical movement into reading sessions. This can help refresh and rejuvenate working memory.

Recommended resources:

  • Educational apps and programs designed to improve working memory
  • Lesson plans and teaching materials that integrate working memory-strengthening strategies
  • Collaborative learning activities that require participants to retain and manipulate information

By developing a child’s working memory skills, you can support their ability to comprehend and engage with texts at a deeper level, ultimately enhancing their overall reading comprehension.

8.Attention and Focus

Attention is a crucial cognitive skill that is essential for reading comprehension. It refers to the ability to focus on the relevant information in a text while filtering out distractions.

For example, when a child is reading a book, their attention allows them to concentrate on the words on the page, understand the sequence of events, and connect the ideas being presented, rather than being distracted by external stimuli, such as noises in the environment, or internal distractions, such as their own thoughts.

The role of attention:

Sustained attention is crucial for reading comprehension, as it enables the reader to actively engage with the text, maintain focus, and extract meaning from the content. Without strong attention skills, readers may struggle to follow the narrative, retain information, and make connections between different parts of the text.

Techniques to improve attention:

  1. Minimizing distractions: Provide a quiet, distraction-free environment for reading. This could involve turning off electronic devices, reducing background noise, or creating a dedicated reading space.
  2. Encouraging active engagement: Ask questions, make predictions, and encourage the reader to interact with the text. This helps to keep their attention focused on the reading task.
  3. Varied reading materials: Expose children to a range of genres and topics to maintain their interest and motivation. Varied content can help sustain attention by preventing boredom or monotony.
  4. Frequent breaks: Incorporate short breaks and physical activities to help recharge attention and focus. This can involve stretching, taking a brief walk, or engaging in a different activity before returning to reading.
  5. Modeling attention strategies: Demonstrate how you, as an adult, maintain focus while reading and problem-solve when your attention wanders. Verbalizing your thought process can help children learn effective attention strategies.

Recommended resources:

  • Educational apps and programs that target attention skills, such as mindfulness or focus-building apps
  • Lesson plans and teaching materials that incorporate strategies for developing attention skills
  • Collaborative learning activities that promote focused engagement and attention during reading tasks

By nurturing a child’s attention skills, you can support their overall reading comprehension and help them become more successful, engaged, and confident readers.

FAQ About Reading Skills

Q1. What’s the difference Between Reading Skills and Strategies?

Did you know that reading skills and read strategies are different things? Learn what each term means and what they look like in action.


Developing a strong foundation in core reading skills, such as decoding, fluency, and vocabulary, is essential for building reading comprehension. However, comprehension involves more than just recognizing individual words – being able to connect ideas within and between sentences is also crucial for understanding the full meaning of a text. Techniques like reading aloud, discussing related experiences, and explicitly teaching sentence structure and cohesion can all help children strengthen these vital reading skills. By systematically addressing the various components of reading comprehension, from the basics of word recognition to the higher-level skills of inference and reasoning, educators and parents can empower children to become engaged, insightful, and successful readers.

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