Children's Reading: Understanding Sentences and Paragraphs

Sentences and paragraphs are the building blocks of all reading materials. Therefore, comprehending each one is important to understanding the information found in the short stories, novels and articles you read. Keep reading for some useful information about sentence structure and the parts of a paragraph.

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Reading Help for Sentences and Paragraphs

The Basics of Sentences

Sentences are a group of words combined in a logical way to provide information. When reading, you need to take the time to figure out what the writer is saying in each line. To accomplish this, identify the subjects and verbs used in the sentence. Also, pay attention to the author's use of adjectives and adverbs because they provide additional information about the subject.

Subjects and Verbs

The subject is who or what the sentence is about. Subjects are also known as nouns, which are people, places and things. Every sentence you read tells you about someone or something. Each sentence also has verbs that relate to the subject. To understand a sentence, you must determine who or what the subject is and the verb or verbs that go with it. Check out the examples below. The subject in each sentence is italicized, and the verbs are in bold.

  • Johnny ran down to the corner store.
  • The airplane landed safely.

Adjectives and Adverbs

Adjectives are words that describe the nouns or subjects in a sentence. They provide you with more details, which helps you visualize (see in your mind) the subject better. Adverbs are words that usually end in '-ly' and give you more information about the verbs used in the sentences. They basically tell you when, where, why and how the action was done. When you take the time to look for and understand the adjectives and adverbs used, you'll likely be able to comprehend more the text. In the below examples, the adjectives or adverbs used are in bold.

Adjective Examples

  • The green and slimy blob headed right for us.
  • The boy's blue and dreamy eyes made Susan's heart melt.

Adverb Examples

  • The boy walked quickly to his seat.
  • Sarah booed loudly at the horrible magician.

Understanding Paragraphs

Authors combine the sentences they write into paragraphs, usually consisting of three to five sentences. The combined sentences will usually go together and relate to the same basic topic. When you are reading the sentences in a paragraph, try to determine what the author is saying and how the sentences are connected.

Main Idea

Finding the main idea will also help you understand sentences and paragraphs. The main idea is the central message or main point the author is trying to deliver in their written work. Sometimes, the author will tell you exactly what the main idea is in the first paragraph. Other times, you'll have to figure out the main idea after reading the entire text. However, if you identify the topic for each paragraph, you'll have an easier time analyzing the text as a whole.


To check your understanding of the sentences and paragraphs you've read, you can also try summarizing. When you summarize, you give the important information from the beginning, middle and end of the story or article you're reading. You can have a trusted adult, like your parents or teachers, check your summary for you. If you frequently summarize what you've read, you'll automatically be improving your comprehension of sentences and paragraphs.

Use a Dictionary

Finally, when all else fails, there's no shame in using a dictionary. Sometimes, you'll come to certain difficult words that you just can't figure out, and not knowing those words can make it difficult for you to understand the sentence. When that happens, it's beneficial to stop and look up the definition in the dictionary. Doing so will not only help you understand the current sentence you're reading, but it will also help you understand future sentences that contain the same word.

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