The Three T’s Improve Reading Comprehension in Struggling Readers

A reader lives a thousand livesDoes this sound familiar? You ask your child if they have homework, and he or she responds, “No, just some reading for <insert class here>.” The night goes on, and the reading goes undone.

Reading is hard work, especially for students who don’t read efficiently. If your child is easily distracted or struggles with reading comprehension, reading can feel like a miserable and time-consuming burden—for both of you.

The Three T’s for Reading Comprehension

Here’s the approach I take with my students that works wonders to improve reading comprehension in the classroom. I call it the three T’s: Title, Topic and Text. It can take as little as five minutes and will improve comprehension ten-fold.

1. Sit with your child and open the textbook to the first page of the assigned section. Bring the child’s attention to the TITLE of the section and ask him or her what it means. This doesn’t have to take long—just a quick chat to get them thinking about what they’re about to read.

2. Ask what they know about the TOPIC already; then share one or two things that you know about it.

3. Finally, bring their attention to the structure of the TEXT. Read the headings, then the subheadings, look at the graphics and read the captions. Briefly discuss anything either of you find interesting.

Now your child is ready to read.

The Three T’s approach is a habit of highly effective readers that prepares the mind to absorb new information. Perhaps you even used the three T’s yourself before reading this article, to see what information was in store. By planting important concepts and key ideas, you open doors to understanding that a struggling reader would not have opened on their own.


Larry O’Brien has a Masters in Special Education from Vanderbilt University. He has been teaching at Benton Hall Academy since 1998.