Comprehension: Creating Value from Text
Reading comprehension is the ability to understand what we read. It is the component that allows us to get value from text, and it is the ultimate goal of reading mastery.
The Depth of Comprehension
Comprehension sits at the top of the Reading Pyramid not because it is the most important component or because all the components below it need to be taught and understood first. It sits at the top of the pyramid because we need a full understanding of the more foundational skills of reading (all components below comprehension on the Reading Pyramid) if we are to gain meaning from what we read and deeply comprehend text.
Throughout the learning process, as your child is gaining an understanding of the more foundational components of reading, you'll want to be teaching basic concepts of comprehension. Teaching concepts of print (where the cover of a book is, what a title is, where the beginning and ending of books are, etc.), asking questions about the words and text being read, helping a learner predict what will happen next in a story, and providing reading material that approximates a learner's reading level are all strategies that can be used to build comprehension while foundational skills are being taught. As a learner applies simple comprehension strategies and gains a strong understanding of phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, and vocabulary (links to each article), comprehension comes naturally and at deep levels.
The Power of a Question
One of the most effective and proven strategies to building reading comprehension is questioning. Asking questions and teaching a learner to ask questions are powerful tools that should be used from the very beginning of literacy instruction.
Questioning should become an active way that you help your learner understand what is being taught. As you read a story, teach a new word, or introduce a new concept, ask questions that help the learner:
- Identify what something is or what is happening.
- Relate to what is being learned.
- Predict what will happen next
The learner should also ask these three types of questions of himself or herself when reading, spelling, and writing. Encourage your child to ask these types of questions continually and consistently. Help him or her to recognize the power of asking teacher’s questions as well as asking oneself questions.
Struggles with Comprehension
When a learner is struggling with comprehension, parents and educators often think it is the only issue, so we look for solutions that focus on comprehension strategies alone. Yet we also know that learning to read does not consist of a single component, such as comprehension; there are several components of reading and they build upon each other. If a learner is struggling to comprehend what he/she is reading, it is likely that he or she has a deficit in one or more of the foundational skills. If you have a child who is struggling with comprehension, make sure your child has been fully and explicitly taught the foundational components of reading before focusing solely on comprehension-building strategies.
Tools to Help Ensure Reading Mastery
Because Reading Horizons knows the importance of the foundational skills of reading, we focus our efforts on helping others learn how to teach these skills so children can reach high levels of reading. Here are a few resources to help you learn about effective reading instruction and the foundational components of reading.
The Reading Pyramid Series: While you may have read individual articles about the reading pyramid, make sure to read through the entire six-part Reading Pyramid Series to learn in depth about the process to reading mastery.
Parent Phonics Training Online Workshop: This two to five- hour workshop will show you a proven, Orton-Gillingham-based way to teach foundational reading skills — for free.
Well-designed instructional products: Reading Horizons At-Home has two age-appropriate programs that help teach foundational reading skills: Reading Horizons Discovery™ for learners ages four through nine, and Elevate™ for ages 10 and above. If you are new to reading instruction, or you are looking for an effective, research-based way to teach reading in your home, Reading Horizons At-Home programs will give you everything you need.