How Can Questions Improve Reading Comprehension?

Asking questions is an important strategy which helps children, and later students, clarify and understand what they are reading. We all know how important reading is. But did you know that reading for as little as 6 minutes is sufficient to reduce stress levels by 60%, slowing heart beat, easing muscle tension, and altering the state of mind? (1)

And when children regularly hear their parents ask questions, it helps them:
  • engage with the text
  • think critically
  • look for answers in the text
  • discuss the text with others.

We can do the same with younger children using pictures instead of written words.

In this article:

Questions Before Reading

Just like before playing sports or doing any other physical activity, it is important to warm up and get ready for the upcoming task, in this case - reading. 




What do you think the story is about? Why do you think that? What characters might be in the story?


Look at this dog! What colour is it? Is it big or small? What else can you see?


What do you know about dogs? What colour can they be? Size? Do you remember when we went to the park and saw that big dog?

Questions During Reading

Pausing your reading now and then to check comprehension helps children stay focused, monitor their understanding, and make connections.




What do you think is going to happen next? Who is he going to visit? Why do you think that? How is he going to handle this problem?


Why did he jump over the fence? Why is his dad happy? What emotions is the dog feeling?


What would you hear if you were in the story now (alarm at the fire department)? What would you see? Can you see his sister in the picture?


What has happened to Clifford so far? Who has he visited?


What does this word mean? What do you think? Can the picture help? Let us reread this part.


Is there anything you are wondering about?

Questions After Reading

These questions help children summarise, question, reflect, discuss, and respond to text.




What do you remember happening in the book? Which animals/vehicles/people do you remember?


What is the main message of the book? What was the story about?


What were the most important events in the story?

How to Ask Questions?

As we start introducing children to the amazing world of reading, we have the role of a model. This means that the child observes and soaks in everything we do. As they grow, our guidance reduces. In the beginning, we model how to turn pages, read in different voices, and ask and answer questions. Oh, look at this vehicle. What colour is it? It's red. It's a red truck. 

Gradually, we start asking questions and waiting for the child to answer. Oh, look, a red vehicle. Have we seen this truck in another book? How many wheels does it have? Do you remember when we saw the same one at that construction site? Would you like to learn more about similar vehicles? Where can we read more?

This way, we equip the child with a valuable strategy that will help them read with understanding once they start reading to learn. 

Why Use Reading Questions?

Asking questions before, during, and after reading is a strategy that supports active engagement while reading. And active engagement is one of the vital prerequisites for successful learning. This strategy helps the reader clarify what they are reading and understand the text better. In addition, asking good questions is a way for students to monitor their comprehension while reading. 
Developing this strategy takes time, and the best way to start is in a parent's lap during reading time. 

Suggested reading on the topic:

(1) Lewis, D. (2009). Galaxy Stress Research. Mindlab International, Sussex University.