(5 min read)
Kids might be reading the book but they could not be understanding the story. Aspects of the characters and how the story develops are misunderstood. Reading comprehension for ADHD kids can be an effortful task.
In my experience school worksheets of “read this paragraph and answer these questions” usually do not help.
We need to dig deeper and create opportunities for reading comprehension in small manageable doses. Here are four steps to help kids with ADHD understand what they are reading.
- Pick a Topic they Enjoy
- Start with a Short Timeframe
- Use Popular and Relevant Media Sources
- Discuss the Stories Together
Pick a Topic they Enjoy
Take advantage of a kid’s natural interests and find reading material to match. One kid might like fantasy books while another only likes sports. Kids often can relate to main characters that are similar to them – same age, same interests/hobbies, etc..
If you are not sure where to start ask the kid’s teacher or school librarian for help. They have no doubt helped many children find books that fit with their personality and reading style.
Use the internet to search for books, ebooks, and audiobooks with characters and topics that you think your kid will like. This might take some time but the research is worth it.
On a side note I find graphic novels for kids to be especially engaging for kids with ADHD. The illustrators and authors hold the reader’s attention with eye-catching graphics and a dynamic storyline. Consider this option when doing your book research.
Once you have a starting set of books you can show them to your kid and ask if they want to read independently or read with you. As you make your way through the books ask for feedback from the kid. If the book is not interesting to them, and they have stuck with it for a few chapters, then it’s okay to put it down and move onto another book.
The process elimination is a helpful tool. It is important to know what genres and books a kid DOES NOT like so you can keep working to find what they DO like.
Download my Free Printable to help Kids Choose Books.
Start with a Short Timeframe
Reading may not seem like a fun activity for kids if this is an area where they have typically struggled. Reading may feel more like a chore. So we must try to add some levity and fun to the situation.
When we want to practice a skill or form a new habit we must be patient. Start the new habit in small steps so we are not overwhelmed or discouraged. I find setting small reading goals to be helpful for kids with ADHD.
The goal could be read for 5 minutes or read 1 chapter. If the book is a graphic novel and does not have defined chapters then read until one event in the book is complete.
I have also read some children’s books that are written as a series of short poems or short stories. This can help the reader navigate and experience a complex story in small manageable pieces.
Continue reading the next section of this post to learn how to use Social Media in your kid’s reading comprehension journey.
Use Popular and Relevant media sources
I really believe that social media can be used for good. There are many creators, artists, and professionals in every field using social media to share their work and lived experiences. We can take advantage of the content to curate stories that we want our kids to read.
Every parent/caregiver has their own rules about internet and social media use for their kids. So I ask you to reflect on your own rules and see if my ideas fit within them. If not, then I understand. We are all raising kids in our own unique, loving, and protective ways.
Social media appeals to kids because there are lots of photos and videos and the amount of time it takes to read a caption or watch a video is short. With the amount of content and the high potential to find not-kid-friendly content I believe that the adult needs to carefully select which pieces of social media to share with the kid.
Consider what we discussed earlier – pick a topic that the kid enjoys. Search for people connected to your child’s area of interest, whether it be sports, science, music, or anything else!
You can find posts from an athlete who won an Olympic gold medal and wrote a children’s book (Ibtihaj Muhammad). You can learn about a scientist who developed a vaccine after years of research (Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett). Or you can find out how and why an athlete created a school for kids (LeBron James).
Even small posts can have good stories and create conversation starters between you and your child.
All of this has really been leading up to the DISCUSSION. That is the opportunity to encourage the child to THINK about what they read, FORM opinions, DRAW inferences, and ASK you questions!
Continue reading to see how and when we can initiate low-stress conversations with our kids to strengthen their Reading Comprehension Skills.
Discuss the Stories Together
The discussion about what the child read is the crucial step to making them think critically about the content.
In order to avoid making the discussion feel like an interrogation I feel that the timing and location of these conversations is important. When we are driving in the car we can ask the kid, “What did you think about that book/article?” If you receive an, “I don’t know” answer then switch up your question.
“I really like how Ingrid found a new group of friends who accepted her. What did you think about that?”
Talking about reading in the car is just one example. You can be sitting together at dinner (or any mealtime). Maybe you are taking a walk together or riding a bus. Take advantage of time you are together with your child in calm moments and initiate these conversations.
Craft your questions so that they prompt your child to answer with more than a “yes” or “no.” Talk about why characters made certain choices, what emotions you felt when reading, or if you agreed with the character’s choices or not. Keep brainstorming to come up with your own discussion ideas.
You know your kid best and what types of questions will prompt a response. If you have tried to get the conversation going and it just feels like it is not happening naturally then stop. You can always restart at another time.
Always be on the lookout for creative stories and ways to introduce them into your daily conversations with you child. Over time their ability to read and understand what they are reading will grow.
More Reading Resources and Ideas
Visit the Learning Resources section for another Reading Comprehension strategy for kids with ADHD.
See my Printable to help Kids Choose Books that they will enjoy reading!