Helping Children with Reading Comprehension
How well a person understands what he or she has just read is known as reading comprehension, and the level of reading comprehension varies greatly from person to person. Individuals who read often with large amounts of print exposure will have greater reading comprehension than individuals who read less, with less print exposure. How well you understand printed text depends on your reading fluency - your ability to recognize words quickly and effortlessly. By that, we mean putting little to no effort into decoding what it is that you are reading.
The more fluently you can read, the better you will be able to comprehend. This is quite logical if you think about it. The less brain power and focus you put into decoding printed text, the more you will have available to process the meaning of the printed text. Makes sense right? Therefore, the more you read, the better and more fluent you become at reading, and the better you are able to comprehend what you are reading.
Reading comprehension is comprised of two main components: 1) language comprehension and 2) decoding. This is a help on reading comprehension framework created by SEDL.org in dealing with learning to read. Below is a graphical representation of reading comprehension:
Image source: SEDL.org
As you can see, to learn to read, language comprehension and decoding are the two critical pillars, which leads to reading comprehension. For help on reading comprehension, a child must possess language comprehension skills and also be able to decode printed text easily, quickly, and automatically. To achieve this goal, children should be offered plenty of opportunity to read. The amount of print exposure directly relates to how well a child will eventually read, and how well the child understands print. Furthermore, studies have shown that high reading volumes lead directly to a larger vocabulary, better verbal skills, increased world knowledge, and better abstract reasoning. So it is not simply reading comprehension that benefits from regular reading, but a whole slew of wonderful benefits.
To develop decoding skills, a child must develop an understanding of several key component that make up the decoding pillar, and these include:
1) Print awareness
2) Letter knowledge (name and sound)
3) Phonemic awareness
Before a child can learn to read, he or she must develop an awareness of print - that squiggly lines printed on paper represent words and sounds, and is related to the spoken language. Then the child must develop letter knowledge, and know that the alphabet letters have names, and each letter represent different sounds. With some basic letter knowledge, the child can then begin to develop phonemic awareness, which is one of the most important skills that will lead to effective reading skills development.