Reading comprehension is one of the pillars of the act of reading. When a person reads a text he engages in a complex array of cognitive processes. He is simultaneously using his awareness and understanding of phonemes (individual sound “pieces” in language), phonics (connection between letters and sounds and the relationship between sounds, letters and words) and ability to comprehend or construct meaning from the text.
This last component of the act of reading is reading comprehension. It cannot occur independent of the other two elements of the process. At the same time, it is the most difficult and most important of the three
Reading comprehension should not be confused with “reading ability”. Reading ability, as it is commonly understood, means the ability to read the words on a page, but does not necessarily mean that what is read is understood. Being able to “decode” or to read words on a page is an essential part of reading, but can often be misleading, as some children are able to read words with great accuracy and sound very much like “adults,” but are unaware of the meaning attached to the sounds they have produced.
Reading fluency (the ability to recognize words quickly and effortlessly) plays an important role in reading comprehension because if word recognition is difficult, the child will use too much of his processing capacity reading individual word and this in turn interferes with the ability to comprehend what is read.
“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously”
This sentence created by Noam Chomsky in 1957 is grammatically and syntactically correct. Whilst you may be able to read and understand each of the words individually, this nonsense sentence demonstrates the difference between being able to read words and comprehend text.
As practiced readers we may take this distinction for granted since the acts of reading and comprehension occur almost simultaneously for us. For developing readers this relationship is not as apparent, but is essential for them to become strong, capable readers.
Reading comprehension is defined as the level of understanding of a text message. This understanding comes from the interaction between the words that are written and how they trigger knowledge outside the text.
Reading Comprehension does not just happen; it requires effort. Readers must intentionally and purposefully work to create meaning from what they read.
There are four levels/stages of reading comprehension. These stages are not necessarily chronological or independent of the others, but do vary in degree of cognitive difficulty (or, in other words, in how much “thinking power” is needed).
The four stages are:
- Analysis & Evaluation
This refers to the ability to understand what is being read. This requires that the child understands the subject matter and the language used to convey it. As social creatures, we often engage in story-telling practices in our homes and so the ability to understand a story is usually a naturally developing skill. Remembering, organizing and expressing this understanding (i.e., re-telling a story), however, is practiced and learned
– Drawing inferences
– Tapping into prior knowledge / experience
– Attaching new learning to old information
– Making logical leaps and educated guesses
– Reading between the lines to determine what is meant by what is stated.
This forces the student to build his or her understanding of the subject matter by using the facts presented to read between the lines for the true meaning of what was meant.
Asking questions like “Why do you think…?” or “Do you remember this from earlier in the story? Tell me about it…” encourages analytical thinking.
This level involves
– Understanding key themes or ideas
– Using ones understanding to analyze, and solve other texts and problems.
The child is required to apply what he has learned from reading to real life events or situations.
You can encourage this kind of interaction with texts by either asking your child what kind of connections they see (i.e., text to text, text to world, text to self, etc.) or by encouraging them to act based on the application they see.
This level is based on the student’s own feelings towards the material or author. It is considered more abstract than any of the other levels because personality, likes and dislikes can affect this level. Creation need not necessarily be writing an original story, but could include activities like creating a commercial, writing a play, writing a poem from the perspective of a character, etc.
Without comprehension, reading is nothing more than tracking symbols on a page with your eyes and sounding them out.
As their reading materials become more diverse and challenging, children need to learn new tools for comprehending these texts.
Content area materials such as textbooks and newspaper, magazine and journal articles pose different reading comprehension challenges for young people and thus require different comprehension strategies. The development of reading comprehension is a lifelong process that changes based on the depth and breadth of texts the person is reading.
Developer: Early Ascent LLC
Reading Raven is phonics-based engaging learn-to-read app that provides step-by-step reading lessons designed to help young children build a solid foundation for reading. The developer suggests this app from age 3 to 7 years, but I feel that 3 years is a little young and it is more suited for children from 4 ½ – 5 years.
There are five lessons included in the app, each working on a group of five letters (individual letters, plus words that start with those letters). All letters except Q and X are covered. The /th/ sound is also included.
- Letter Recognition: A letter falls, and the child has to match it to the same letter below. As it falls they hear the letter sound, once they correctly match it they hear the letter name, sound and a word beginning with that letter
- Tracing letters & words: The app shows the letter outline and the correct letter formation and the child then traces the letter/word. The app allows them to go outside the lines, but they do need to touch dots at the start and end of each stroke. When they finish, the outline disappears and you see how they wrote the letter.
- Letter Sounds: The child hears the sound of a letter and identify which letter (of several) makes that sound
- Initial Sounds: this is similar to the letter matching, but this time the child has to match the falling letter to a picture of a word that starts with that letter.
- Word Matching: A word falls and the child has to match it to the same word below.
- Identifying words: The child hears a word and must pick the written word (of several) that matches it.
- Building words: The child has to put the letters together in the right order to make a word.
- Reading words/sentences: The child practices reading short words, then moves on to short and then longer sentences. As the child reads they move their finger along a bar under the words and their voice is recorded and played back to them.
- Identifying Word Groups: The child has to recognize words that start or end with the same sound and teaches rhyming.
The words are 1-4 letters long and the sentences are 2-8 words long, some sight words and punctuation marks are also introduced. Each lesson has its own theme e.g. it occurs underwater or in the snow or in outer space.
The child earns stickers as a reward for doing the activities, and uses these to decorate Reading Raven’s tree house. The stickers illustrate the words the child has learned and the stickers can be moved around and resized.
App Review Checklist & Rating Chart: Total Score /20
(Adapted from www.speechgadget.com)
GENERAL INFORMATION & OPERATION
|Content is appropriate
|No in app purchases required for use
|Students can launch and navigate in the app independently
|App is fairly priced and/or comparable to other similarly priced apps
|App can be customized for different users
|App can be used for single user or groups
|Content/data can easily be exported
|User data is saved from session to session
|Design graphics/sounds are appealing
|App is interactive, engaging & motivating for user
|App is designed to target speech/language skills
|App is designed to target auditory processing – phonemic awareness
|App can be adapted to target speech/language skills
|App encourages critical thinking and higher level language
|App has good potential for interaction between user and therapist
|Response to errors is specific and results in improved performance
|Targeted skills are practiced in an authentic learning environment
|App offers complete flexibility to alter settings to meet students needs
|App can be used across a variety of age/developmental groups
Total Points: 16/20 Points
5 Stars 17 – 20 points
4 Stars 13 – 16 points
3 Stars 9 – 12 points
2 Stars 5 – 8 points
1 Star 1 – 4 points
Most things about this app are great and it is difficult to single out any one feature. Some special features that I like include:
- On any activity, you can have the full voice instructions repeated by tapping the listen icon.
- You can skip ahead or replay any activity by swiping forward or backward on the Reading Raven character.
- The app dynamically adapts to the user’s motor skills. If the child is going slower, then the screen adapts to the child’s pace.
You also have the option to work in normal (Abc), uppercase (ABC) or lowercase (abc), and to choose which of four font styles to use. The settings are child-proofed – you have to answer maths questions to access them.
Areas for Improvement
- From a South African Perspective, the letter /Z/ is pronounced “zee” and the /R/ is pronounced as /err/ so a U.K. voice over would be nice (although I think that our kids are well tuned into the American accent.
- The app cannot be customized for different users and I couldn’t find a way to “erase” all the previously earned stickers and start over in order to get around the lack of customization.
- Although the app is easy to navigate independently, there are no progress reports for parents to check and see how the child is doing and therefore the app is probably better used with parent supervision.
- I would have loved to have given this app a five star rating, but for use as a therapist the inability to customize it for different users, use it in a group and export data was a limiting factor.
For individual use this is a 5 Star App!
Teach your child to read by reinforcing many of the preliteracy skills required for the development of reading.
Get it while it’s on sale at $1.99
The over-riding objective of Mandela Day is to inspire individuals to take action to help change the world for the better. Ultimately it seeks to empower communities everywhere.
“Take Action; Inspire Change; Make Every Day a Mandela Day.”
If you are going to be reading to children on Mandela Day, why not read WITH them?
Paired Reading is a simple yet very effective way of improving a child’s reading. It helps to improve their basic reading ability (i.e. the ability to read words quickly and accurately) and their ability to understand whatever is being read. It also increases confidence and self-esteem.
Think about a child learning to ride a bike. In the early stages you give the child encouragement, confidence and control, by holding the bicycle. Your own instinct will tell you when to let go. So you can gradually disengage for longer periods until your child is able to ride without help. The same applies to Paired Reading. It is an ideal way of helping a child become an independent reader.
How to do Paired Reading
- Together with the child you read aloud.
- Pace your reading to the speed of the child.
- Decide on a quiet signal to be used by the child when he or she feels she is ready to read alone – like a tap on the hand.
- If the child makes a mistake give the child 5 seconds to self-correct.
- If they don’t, point to the word, say the word and get the child to repeat the word.
- Then rejoin in reading together again- until again the child feels confident to read again by him or herself.
When and how often should paired reading be done?
- It can be done at home or at school. You should aim to read 3 times a week.
- It must be carried out for at least 8-10 weeks.
Which type of books should be read?
- Books or magazines can be used as long as they are at the child’s reading level.
- The child should be allowed to choose their own book or magazine to read as long as it isn’t too difficult for them.
- Preferably choose a book with a large font – small print will be more difficult to read.
- If the child makes more than 5 mistakes on the first page, then the book is too difficult and you should encourage the child to select an easier book.
Anyone can help with Paired Reading – moms, dads, older brothers and sisters, grandparents, other family members and family friends.
Keep reading time fun.
Use lots of praise when your child is doing well.
Books have the power to benefit in a myriad of ways. As a parent, reading to your child is one of the most important things you can do to prepare him with a foundation for academic excellence. So go ahead – empower your child!
Make every day a Mandela day and read, read read!
Children are miraculous! They are born with an innate knowledge of language. BUT children are not born with an innate knowledge of reading.
They need to be taught that text is read from left to right and that words are separate from images.
Although learning to talk and read are two distinct domains, they are also intricately related.
Early language skills are linked to later successful reading.
Young children need a variety of skills to become successful readers. Research indicates that children who enter school with more of these skills are better able to benefit from the reading instruction they receive when they arrive at school.
The following core skills have been identified as being crucial to the development of later reading.
Knowing the names of things is an extremely important skill for children to have when they are learning to read.
Help develop your child’s vocabulary by reading a variety of books (both fiction and nonfiction), and by naming all the objects in your child’s world.
2. PRINT MOTIVATION
Print motivation is a child’s interest in and enjoyment of books.
A child with print motivation enjoys being read to, plays with books, pretends to write and asks to be read to.
Encourage print motivation in your child by
• Shared book reading a special time, keeping books accessible, and letting your child see that you enjoy reading.
• Explain how reading and writing are used in everyday life, for example shopping lists, newspapers, TV guides, and computer screens.
A fun activity is to read through the TV guide with your child and bookmark a favourite programme to watch or record.
3. PRINT AWARENESS
Print Awareness includes learning that writing in English follows basic rules such as flowing from top-to- bottom and left-to-right, and that the print on the page is what is being read by someone who knows how to read.
An example of print awareness is a child’s ability to point to the words on the page of a book.
Your child’s print awareness can be encouraged by
- Pointing out and reading words everywhere you see them – on signs, labels and the supermarket.
- Going shopping with young children. This can be challenging, especially with all the sweet temptations within the child’s direct line of sight. I know that it is easier to leave your child at home when you go shopping, but try to make a point of taking your child with you at least once a week.
Something to keep your child occupied in the supermarket is to send him ahead of you in the aisle to try to find a certain brand of crisps/cereal/tomato sauce.
Use items that your child is motivated to buy 🙂
Drawing your child’s attention to prices also creates print awareness.
4. NARRATIVE SKILLS
The ability to understand and tell stories and describe things is important for children in order to understand what they are learning to read.
An example of a narrative skill is a child’s ability to tell what has happened at a birthday party, or a class outing.
Help your child strengthen his narrative skills by
- Asking him to retell a well-known story. Encourage your child to predict what might happen next in the story. Facial expression can create excitement about what might happen.
- Encourage your child to tell you about things he has done that have a regular sequence to them. For example, having a bath.
5. LETTER KNOWLEDGE
Letter Knowledge includes learning that letters have names and are different from each other, and that specific sounds go with specific letters.
An example of letter knowledge is a child’s ability to know that the letter B makes a /b/ sound.
- Playing games like “I spy” will develop phonemic (sound) awareness.
- Focus your child’s attention on the letters in the words and highlight the letters that are in your child’s name.
- Encourage your child to pay attention to the shape of letters and trace them with his finger.
6. PHONOLOGICAL AWARENESS
Phonological Awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate the smaller sounds in words.
Phonological awareness includes the ability to hear and create rhymes, to say words with sounds or chunks left out, e.g. monkey without /mon/, and the ability to put sounds together to make a word.
Strengthen phonological awareness by
- Exposing your child to songs and rhymes.
- Encourage them to “make up” silly rhyming words
- Say words and sounds with a pause between the syllables and have your child guess what word you are saying. E.g. um—bre—lla
The environment and daily routines in your home can be one of the best teaching tools to help children develop pre-reading skills. A print-rich environment helps foster skills needed for reading. By surrounding your children with print in your home and talking to them about what it means, they will learn more every day. As your child points, labels, makes nonsense words, and tells you outrageous stories, they are practicing to be literate. The next time you hear the word “again p-l-e-a-s-e!” remind yourself that you are laying the foundation for life-long literacy. So with the same enthusiasm you’ve demonstrated one hundred times before, “READ IT AGAIN” as if it were the very first time!