What to Do When Your Child Can't Remember What He Reads

He seems like a fluent reader, but something is wrong.

By Amy Mascott



What to Do When Your Child Can't Remember What He Reads

Does the following scenario sound familiar?

Your child seems like he's doing fine with reading.

Give him a textbook at any level and he can read the words on the page with what sounds like absolute fluency.  He follows the marks of punctuation, and reads with enunciation, enthusiasm, even expression.  He can read surprisingly difficult words—anything you put in front of him.

But ask him a question about what he read, and he has no idea.  He cannot remember what he just read.

Reading is a lot of work—a lot of continuous work—and sometimes children need reminders of how to make sure their brain is "turned on" for all aspects of reading.  Here are some things you can do to help your child remember what he reads.

First and foremost, if you notice this is happening with your school-aged child, please talk to his or her teacher. Email, write a note, or schedule a time when you can sit down with the teacher and express your concerns that your child is not remembering what he reads.  The teacher should be able to support your child in the classroom while you support him or her at home.

Children's success in school is a true team effort.

If it seems that your child forgets what he's read only occasionally and you want to help guide him in the right direction for better comprehension, then grab a pack of sticky notes.

That's right. Sticky notes.  

When a child can't remember what he read, he's not truly comprehending what he read. He's not interacting with the text and is instead just moving on through, plowing forward. You want him to interact with the text by stopping every few minutes to "check in."

Assign a "job" to each color of the sticky notes.  Pink notes will show excitement, yellow will carry a question, and green will mean complete comprehension.  Or, if you don't have colors, you can use one-color notes and write an explanation point, a question mark, or a smiley face on them.  

After every page or two that the child reads, he should "check in" by assessing what he just read.  He should ask himself:

  • Do I understand what I just read?
  • Am I surprised about something I read?
  • What questions do I have about what I just read?

After he asks himself these questions, he should mark the page with the appropriate sticky note.  If he has a specific question, he can write it on the note. That's it. And then he moves on.

By giving kids a small focus and a reason to interact with the text, they're more likely to remember what they read because of the continual "check in" of their understanding.

Soon the "check in" will become habitual—we hope—and he won't need the sticky notes.  Until then, stock up on the sticky notes, parents!

Does your child have a hard time with a particular aspect of reading?   Share your questions and concerns on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page, or find Amy on twitter, @teachmama, and let's continue the conversation!

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