In middle school, the academic work gets harder. Help your tween read better with three easy tips you can do at home.

1) “Click or Clunk”: Check your understanding

Help your child become a better reader with the "Click or Clunk" trick. Smooth, easy sentences are "clicks," and tricky ones are "clunks." Encourage them to tackle the "clunks" to get better at reading.

How? After each sentence or paragraph, ask: Did it click (make sense) or clunk? If it's a clunk, find the issue. Is it a tricky or unknown word? Break it down or look it up. Is it a confusing sentence? Slow down, read it again and ask: What's the problem, and how can I fix it?

2) Explore words and grow your vocabulary

Knowing many words is important for middle school success. Being curious about words helps your child understand them better, and it builds a strong word foundation for life. It helps them make sense of what they read, and to talk and write about things they care about.

Here’s how:

  • Be curious about words yourself
  • Discuss similarities in words (e.g. roots: “happy” or affixes: “unhappy” or “happiness”)
  • Use new and sophisticated words often (e.g. if your child is unsure about attending a party, say "It sounds like you feel ambivalent about going.")
  • Connect words and meanings with other words (e.g. synonyms: deluge-flood and antonyms: gentle-harsh)
  • Keep a running list of new words (in a notebook, or post-its on the fridge)
  • Give positive feedback when your child uses a new word!

3) Use Graphic Organizers

Use graphic organizers to organize, understand and remember text better. They're simple visual tools you can create at home.


  • Timelines to map events in chronological order
  • Story Maps to outline narrative elements (plot, character, setting, point of view, conflict)
  • Venn diagrams to compare and contrast information
  • A pyramid to illustrate Topic, Sub-Topic, and Details

Reading is a complex process. Review the six essentials for reading comprehension at, a terrific resource. Also see tips to boost your child’s vocabulary and more graphic organizers here.

Middle school can be tough, but remind your tween of their skills when it gets hard. Above all, when it comes to reading together at home - keep things fun!

Emily Kirven is the executive director of READ718.