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Comprehension

Reading is more than just sounding out words. Lots of children have trouble making meaning from what they read, but there are ways to help.

Click below for answers to the following comprehension questions:

Question 1: Can you recommend any books that are at a lower reading level but would still appeal to older students?
Question 2: I am looking for ways to improve my child's comprehension and speed reading skills. How do I go about this?
Question 3: How can I help older students improve with reading comprehension?
Question 4: If a child is reading aloud and is maintaining meaning, is it necessary that I correct every word he misreads?
Question 5: How can I help my son develop his reading comprehension abilities?
Question 6: In one of your articles, you stated that strategy instruction is unlikely to help students younger than third or fourth grade. As a first-grade teacher, what can I do to help my students develop their reading comprehension without relying on strategy inst

Question:

Can you recommend any books that are at a lower reading level but would still appeal to older students?

Answer:

It can be difficult to find books that have high interest and are also written at a level so that children with reading challenges can enjoy them. A good starting point would be to talk to the special education teachers, reading specialist, and librarian at your child's school. In addition to recommended books, you may also want to ask for suggestions of children's magazines. Magazines tend to have appeal for all students and have many advantages for struggling readers because of their interesting and current topics, large number of graphics, short articles, and "adult" look. Also consider asking the librarian for suggestions of books of poems. There are some hilarious contemporary poets out there whose poems have mass kid appeal. And because poems, like magazine articles, are short, they are instantly gratifying and provide an immediate sense of accomplishment for all readers.

The following articles provide suggestions for ways to encourage reading, describe the benefits of reading aloud to children, and list book titles for reluctant readers:

This next set of articles provides information about choosing books, audio books, poetry, read aloud books, determining a child's reading level, and lists other recommended books:

You might also look into high interest-low reading level books (hi-lo books). Find helpful information about hi-lo books and booklists.


Question:

I am looking for ways to improve my child's comprehension and speed reading skills. How do I go about this?

Answer:

If you choose to work directly with your child, the following articles are full of suggestions and ideas for increasing reading comprehension skills:

You may also want to find a local tutor to work with your child. You can contact a tutor through a local university, church, library or in the yellow pages for your community. The LD OnLine Yellow Pages might also be helpful.

Lastly, school administrators and guidance counselors can help you locate services.


Question:

How can I help older students improve with reading comprehension?

Answer:

There are a number of approaches to helping students organize their thinking and get the most out of textbooks. Some of the strategies, such as the SQ4R process, are useful in upper elementary, middle, high school, and college levels.

You may find the following articles of interest:

Also, having the students complete simple text summary activities can help you get a better idea of which aspects of comprehension they find difficult. Our sister site, Adlit, has several summary sheets available, as well as an excellent library of comprehension articles.

Finally, the Learning Strategies Database at Muskingum College’s Center for Advancement of Learning (CAL) has a very useful website. It has an extremely comprehensive listing of reading comprehension strategies applicable to both secondary and postsecondary instruction.


Question:

If a child is reading aloud and is maintaining meaning, is it necessary that I correct every word he misreads?

Answer:

The answer to this question depends on the context in which the child is reading. If he is reading in front of a group, or for pleasure, or for the purpose of appreciating literature, then you should NOT correct every mistake. During these activities, students are developing a love of reading, and as long as the meaning is preserved, they should be free to experience the "flow" of a good story.

In an instructional context, you may want to gently correct accuracy mistakes, but try to limit this to activities in which the main instructional goal is accuracy. You can build activities into your curriculum that focus on this specific skill.

Giving students the opportunity to read without the pressure of perfect accuracy will invite children to read more – and that is how they will improve!


Question:

How can I help my son develop his reading comprehension abilities?

Answer:

We have a lot of information on our site about teaching comprehension skills and how parents can help at home. The following links can help you get started on helping your son develop his skills.

If you have concerns, you may wish to discuss these with his teacher. The teacher may have strategies that work in the classroom that s/he can pass on to you. Together, you can determine the best course of action for helping your son.


Question:

In one of your articles, you stated that strategy instruction is unlikely to help students younger than third or fourth grade. As a first-grade teacher, what can I do to help my students develop their reading comprehension without relying on strategy inst

Answer:

I think of three things, two of them rather indirect. The truth is that it's difficult to do much with comprehension in first grade because most of the student's attention and working memory must be directed to the problem of decoding. So the first way that a first-grade teacher can aid comprehension is to ensure that all students can decode fluently. In later grades, comprehension depends much more on knowledge than it does on reading strategies. Learning reading strategies does give students a sizable boost in comprehension, but it's a one-time thing. Further practice doesn't help. But students who have some knowledge about a passage will comprehend it much better than students who lack that knowledge. In older kids, the correlation between general world knowledge and scores on reading comprehension tests is quite high. (You don't see as high a correlation in young children, because reading testes in early grades focus mostly on decoding, not comprehension.) Thus, the second thing that a first-grade teacher can do to boost students' reading comprehension is to ensure that students have a broad basis of knowledge. When I hear that science, history, geography and other core subjects are being squeezed out in frantic preparation for reading tests, I am concerned. It may help with reading tests (which are really decoding tests) in first grade, but this practice will come back to haunt school systems when these kids get to fourth or fifth grade-their lack of world knowledge will hurt them on reading comprehension tests. The third thing a first grade teacher can do-which I'm sure you already know and do, but I couldn't not mention it-is everything possible to ensure that students like reading. Kids who view reading as fun read more, and it's a positive feedback loop. More reading makes reading seem like more fun (because it's easier), which makes students read more, and so on.
"A book is like a garden, carried in the pocket." — Chinese Proverb