Why Students Struggle with Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension is the ability to mentally process written words and deduce what they mean, integrating this new knowledge with past knowledge. It’s not just the ability to accurately read words on a page- rather, understanding the meaning of the text is the key part of reading comprehension.
Many students struggle with reading comprehension, and this can put a serious strain on a child throughout all classroom subjects. Because learning all academic content requires reading in some form, students who struggle with reading comprehension often fall far behind their classmates academically in multiple areas. Fortunately, there are ways to help struggling students.
Why some students struggle with reading comprehension
There are many reasons a child may struggle to comprehend what they read:
- Learning disability
A learning disability such as dyslexia or difficulty with vision, hearing, or speech may cause difficulties in reading comprehension.
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder can make it difficult for a child to focus. Thus, he may be less motivated to comprehend what he is reading.
- Phonological awareness
Difficulty sounding out the words on a page can lead to reading comprehension difficulties. A child who takes twice as long to read the words on a page will spend less processing time trying to deduce their meaning, which leads to decreased comprehension of the text.
- Lack of vocabulary
Similarly, a lack of grade-level vocabulary can delay comprehension if the child does not know the meaning of most of the words he is reading.
- Lack of interest
Sometimes the problem can be as simple as a lack of interest. If a child is not interested in the content she is reading, she will not be motivated to understand it.
Having difficulty with reading comprehension can cause stress or anxiety about schoolwork, which in turn leads to greater difficulty with reading comprehension.
Signs that your child is struggling with reading comprehension:
Sometimes the reasons for difficulties in reading comprehension can be unknown to parents. The underlying cause may be an undiagnosed learning disorder or a child’s stress that the parent is not aware of. Here are some tell-tale signs that your child may need reading comprehension intervention:
- Your child can’t provide a summary of the reading and may focus on only a small aspect of the entire story
- Your child can’t explain what a character’s thoughts or feelings might have been
- Your child doesn’t connect the events in a story to events that have happened in real life
- Your child may be able to tell you what happened in the story but cannot say why those things happened.
How to help students who struggle with reading comprehension
To help build your child’s reading comprehension skills, you should consistently ask her about what she is reading. Ask probing questions such as:
“How do you think that character felt? Why do you think that?”
“What lesson can we learn from this story?”
“This story is about riding the bus. Can you tell me about a time you rode on a bus in real life?”
When asking probing questions, always ask your child to refer to the text for their answers and point out their evidence. Teach your child to continually ask herself what she is reading, and to take brain breaks if she needs time to process part of the story before moving on. It’s also important to go over any vocabulary words with your child that she may be unfamiliar with.
You can help your child strengthen her reading comprehension ability with these simple practices. The important thing is to remain consistent with these practices and to maintain a positive attitude to show your child that learning is something fun to work towards.