It is possible to teach a child to read orally, without understanding the meaning of a single word. It can be done through phonics and teaching the rules of syllabication, but it is really an exercise in futility. What is the benefit of reading without comprehension?
Below are five factors which parents and teachers must consider when seeking to improve the comprehension skill of any student.
* Fluency in the language
If the reading material is written in a language which the student is in the process of learning, his comprehension will be limited. If his knowledge of the vocabulary is only basic and he speaks in a halting manner, it will have a negative effect on his comprehension of reading material. He should first be fluent in the spoken language before he attempts to understand any but very basic literature.
* Reading skill
If the child is reading at a primary grade level, he should not be assigned a book suitable for more advanced students. This can discourage him, and affect his outlook on reading in general. It is important to foster a positive attitude and enthusiasm about books and reading in every student. The student needs a good knowledge of phonics and syllabication, and be comfortable reading at that specific level, before he is expected to read and comprehend more advanced material.
* Learning disabilities
If a child is dyslexic, has developmental delays, or suffers from other learning disabilities, it may impede his progress in mastering comprehension skills. He cannot be expected to comprehend written material before he has developed basic reading skills. He should be working with a special needs or remedial teacher who can help him overcome his disability, and achieve his highest possible potential.
The student needs experience in an area, before he can fully grasp the significance of an article or book on a specific topic. Children in the tropics will not fully understand the fun and attraction of winter activities in the snow. Students in Alaska, or Northern Canada, will have trouble relating in a meaningful way to the warm, humid environment of a rain forest.
Ideally, the student should choose the topic about which he would like to read. It should then be the task of the teacher or librarian to find material on that topic which is suitable for his reading level. Fortunately, children are very curious, and their interest can often be aroused by a spirited class discussion on a specific theme.
Reading is perhaps the most valuable skill a child will gain in school. His ability to read and comprehend will affect his self-respect, his future career success, and the respect he will command from peers and society in future years. Every child should be a competent and avid reader by the time he leaves high school.
It is most important, in every grade, to provide students with appropriate and interesting reading material, written for children at that level of ability. Otherwise, they will be at risk of becoming frustrated, discouraged and turned off reading for the foreseeable future and that is a terrible thing to any young person.