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  • Writer's pictureDr. V.S. Gayathri

How To Improve Reading Comprehension For Young Learners!

Updated: Jul 1, 2022

We all understand the importance of comprehension, especially in the learning phase for students. The National Reading Panel Report identified five components that are crucial to developing reading skills: phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. The four comprehension strategies that are used to help increase the reading comprehension of young children and older children who are struggling with reading.

What is reading comprehension?

Comprehension is the ability to understand and interpret written words. It is different from just recognizing words. Recognizing words but not knowing what they mean does not fulfil the purpose of reading, which comprehension does.

For example, you give your child a passage to read. The child can read the entire passage, but he/she knows nothing when asked to explain what was read. Comprehension adds meaning to what is read. Reading comprehension happen when mere words turn into thoughts and ideas. It makes reading enjoyable, fun, and informative

To be able to accurately understand written material or to comprehend, kids need to be able to

(1) decode what they read

(2) make connections between what they read and what they already know

(3) think deeply about what they have read

Why comprehension is important?

1) Without proper comprehension skills, students will lack in the ability to understand what they are reading. The goal of reading is to understand important lessons, stories, and arguments. Comprehension also increases the enjoyment and effectiveness of reading and performing in all spheres of life.

2) Many parents make the mistake of assuming that comprehension only influences English language. However, comprehension is important as a foundational skill of any education system. Through passages and word problems, the requirement to comprehend what you read is present everywhere in a student's life, from Math to History.

Apart from this, reading comprehension allows the integration of knowledge that facilitates training processes and successful coping with academic and personal situations. The level of reading comprehension refers to the type of mental representation that is made of the written text.

In a report by the National Centre for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, a panel of experts found the following strategies effective in improving reading comprehension:

- Activating Prior Knowledge/Predicting

- Questioning

- Visualization

- Monitoring, Clarifying, or Fixing-up

- Drawing Inferences

- Summarizing/Retelling

What are some of the challenges to good reading comprehension?

Many learners face different types of difficulties in reading comprehension and it varies from child to child.

When kids first learn to read, they are still developing their basic word reading skills. Hence, their skill in word recognition is the major determinant of how good they are at reading comprehension. As they learn to be more fluent, their language comprehension becomes the key factor in reading comprehension.

Some children may have poor reading comprehension because their word reading is slow or inaccurate. Other children can develop good word reading skills, but experience reading comprehension problems because of less-developed language skills. It has been observed that kids learning English as an additional language can actually do very well on word reading. However, their knowledge of the meanings of words and idioms and, for some children who are studying in a different background or place, will affect their comprehension due to the lack of background knowledge. There can be many other external and internal factors as well.

Let us now take a look at some ways to improve this skill in young students.

How to improve comprehension for young learners?

Read aloud time: Reading to young kids is essential for gaining literacy skills. Listening to a parent talk improves comprehension, word association, and overall childhood literacy. Statistics show that children develop better reading skills and reading comprehension as adults when they are read to as kids.

Self-reading time: This is the phase where kids are self-sufficient in reading and they start exploring books, articles and other materials for active reading. Here they are not only reading, but forming their own viewpoints as well.

How to help them before reading-

- Do activities to motivate like take a tour of the cover, explain it to them, mention the author’s name, basically build a background.

- Ask what they know already like show them images form the book and ask them about what they think the story can be, what kind of characters will be there etc.

- Activate prior vocabulary like ask them some similar stories that they might have read or relate to a certain memory and ask them about what they can remember like words, phrases etc.

How to help them during reading-

- Summarize every chapter or chunks of information after reading for a while. Ask them what they have understood till now. Make sure that your child is holding on to the story by asking "What has happened so far?"

- Ask questions like "Who?", "What just happened?", “When”, "Where?" etc. At key points of the story, you can also ask "How did it happen?" or "Why did it happen?"

- Make inferences and urge them to ponder over their thoughts and ideas. Teach them to predict/imagine/infer by asking "How do you think the character will handle the situation?"

How to help them after reading-

- Summarize in own words and then ask them to tell what they felt in a few words too. Clear their doubts and confusions, if any.

- Draw the story like a visualization technique. Make them draw pictures in their mind.

- Asking what they already know by making connections which some relatable story or experience from their own life.

- Activities to make them interested can be done after the story like some game related to the story, the characters or the vocabulary. It can be enactment or audio activity or a drawing activity like making a similar character of their own or changing the end of the story. It can be word games like antonym-synonym, adjectives, identifying different parts of speech or anything that would interest the child. This also helps in vocabulary activation by taking the learning process one step ahead.


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