Learning to read and learning comprehension skills are two totally different abilities and need 2 different parts of the brain. However, most schools assume that if a student can read words out loud, they should automatically be able to comprehend. This hope is untrue and our brains need to be trained to comprehend, especially if a student learned to read via a phonetic program because reading through phonics makes your brain look at each letter instead of the big picture. It is exactly like not being able to see the forest through the trees. To comprehend well, a reader must be able to see the whole picture, not just individual words. That’s why speed readers often have a high level of comprehension: I read an average of 1,000 words per minute with a comprehension rate of 99%. If you want to find out how fast you read and how well you understand it, check out this test from the Wall Street Journal.
To help your child become better at comprehension, start to incorporate these tips into your nightly home work sessions:
1. Use a blank piece of paper to cover the material they have already read. This enables their eyes to focus on what they haven’t read. When you cover words they have yet to read, it is training their brain to focus on stopping at the end of each line instead of smoothly transitioning line to line.
2. Stop at the end of each paragraph and ask them a question about what was read. Once they get into the routine, thinking back and creating a summary for themselves will be easy and they will remember what they read.
3. Take turns reading. Yes, I know, THEY are supposed to be reading. However, who are they modelling their reading skills after? If you take turns reading, and you ask a question after they are done and then THEY ask YOU a question when you get done reading, they build the skills of asking questions as well as developing their verbal comprehension which is just as important, especially if they will be going to college and having to listen to lectures.
4. Build up how long they can read/listen before creating a question or summary. In the beginning, I suggest a paragraph, but I have had to go sentence by sentence for some students. After a while, you should be able to work up to a page.
These techniques will help them truly understand and remember what they read and hear, unlike the test-taking tips to read the questions and then just read or skim the passage until the student finds the correct answer. The better and faster they read, the more they will want to read, which will lead to your child being more confident and successful in whatever they want to accomplish.