Context for Reading Comprehension

It’s hard for today’s student, due to their age and life experience, to understand a world without cell phones, computers, and game systems, let alone all the modern amenities that make our world run. However, without understanding the big picture, comprehending what is being read can and will suffer.


When reading a story with your child, it is important to discuss when the story takes place. Is it in the past, present or future? If the story is in the past, it is essential that your child understand what was going on in history at that time. Some questions to discuss (adjusting for age) are:

  • What kind of technology did the people have?
  • How did they travel? • How did they get what they needed to eat?
  • What were living conditions like?

A 5th grade student that I was working with read a passage about castles in the Middle Ages. When it came time to show her comprehension of the story, she had to draw a picture of life on each level of the castle tower. In the lowest level, she included a refrigerator.  We talked about the fact that there was no electricity, a concept that is hard to relate to if you don’t know life without such conveniences.

It is also important to understand that if a story takes place in the future, that the author has more flexibility with what is allowed in the story.


Understanding where the story takes place is just as important as the time period.  For someone who has grown up in a warm, sunny climate, relating to a cold, barren place like Antarctica can be difficult without making it real.  Since a trip to Antarctica is out of the question, here are some ways that you can make learning about the setting more fun:

  • Ask your child what they know about where the story takes place.
  • Explore maps.  Compare where the story is set to where you live.
  • Use the internet to search the place that your child is reading about.  Pictures of a location make it come alive.

With a little time investment, every story can have deeper meaning for your child.

The story will make more sense with the knowledge foundation that you help build.

Create an adventure together!


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Filed under reading, tutoring

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