The Effects of Poor Reading Comprehension & Strategies for Improvement

The Effects of Poor Reading Comprehension & Strategies for ImprovementChildren who experience deficits in both reading comprehension and production in early childhood lag behind their peers by the time they reach the fifth grade, according to a new study in the Journal of Research in Reading.

Comprehension-specific reading problems often represent a particular type of reading difficulty in which children can read fluently and accurately, but do not understand what they are reading. Often, children will have significant problems interpreting the main ideas of the text.

“It’s important that parents and teachers provide students with early language-focused interventions, since they may reduce some of the potential reading, language, and even mathematical deficits.”

Using an existing database, researchers created a longitudinal study to identify three subgroups of children (poor reading comprehenders, poor reading decoders, and typical readers) in the fifth-grade. Children’s reading assessment scores were then compared to an array of language measurements that were collected at 15, 24, 36, and 54 months. In total, 13 subtests and measures of language skills were administered indirectly or directly to participants.

The findings revealed that fifth-grade poor reading comprehenders had the lowest abilities on each assessment of language comprehension and production at 15, 24, 36, and 54 months.

Young children who lack adequate language and reading skills may fail to develop adequate reading comprehension skills, which affects their later academic abilities. More specifically, children who display deficits in reading comprehension also struggle with phonological and mathematical skills. Many of these skills often influence and affect the development of one another.

Therefore, it’s important that parents and teachers provide students with early language-focused interventions, since they may reduce some of the potential reading, language, and even mathematical deficits.

Here is a list of suggestions for children who are struggling with reading comprehension:

  • Graphic novels for children who are struggling with reading comprehension. Graphic novels are effective at stimulating a high interest, and have less vocabulary words.
  • Find books with compelling characters and storylines in which children can make emotional connections.
  • Books that contain simple sentence structure. For struggling readers, it’s helpful when the subject and verb are physically close to each other, rather than separated by multiple words.
  • Reading books aloud to children allows for them to ask for clarification on content and vocabulary words they do not understand.
  • Have children watch the movie version of a book before they read it. Although the movie and book may be slightly different, this may help children have a better idea of the plot as they are reading.

Journal reference:

Justice, Laura, Andrew Mashburn, and Yaacov Petscher. 2013. “Very Early Language Skills of Fifth-grade Poor Comprehenders.” Journal of Research in Reading 36(2):172–85.

Photo credit: surlygirl via Flickr CC

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