Thursday, March 3, 2011

Dyslexic children and reading comprehension Part 2

What is reading comprehension?
Reading comprehension is the ability to get meaning from what you read. It is the ultimate goal in reading. Continued reading will help build the vocabulary and general knowledge base that is so important for reading comprehension.

I believe we all agree that a child needs good language or vocabulary to be able to understand what he is reading. In addition he needs general knowledge base for reading comprehension. General knowledge base and vocabulary can be built with reading on a daily basis. By general knowledge base I mean some knowledge of the subject matter being read. For example even if I have checked the dictionary for all the meanings of words in a physics book I will not be able to comprehend a major portion of what I read as my general knowledge base for physics is almost zilch.

As mentioned in my article on 9th March 2010 another very important ingredient in being able to comprehend, when a child reads, is fluency in reading.  I have written in detail on sight word reading and whole language. Today, let us distinguish between identification and recognition. Identification means that a student correctly reads a word, regardless of whether he sounded it out, guessed or retrieved it from memory. Identification often takes effort. By contrast word recognition means that a child retrieves a familiar word from memory. There is no need to guess or sound out the word. Recognition is instant and effortless. It is based on a student’s sight vocabulary. As such once a child can read effortlessly his mind is free to comprehend what he is reading. (You, the parent, are reading this article by recognition and not by identification – you don’t have to sound out any word.)

Once a dyslexics word recognition is fluent he will comprehend more of what he reads. This is because he can focus his attention on the meaning of what he reads. He does not have to focus attention on figuring out the words. Please read my reader Sarah’s comment in the article dated 1st March 2011.

I also have an article which clearly proves that all of us are ultimately whole language readers and all of us recognise words which are familiar with just a glance. We use phonics only to decode new words that we are not familiar with.

We could probably associate the above with driving. When we are learning to drive, everything has to be thought about and we are very busy looking at everything required for driving. But a few months later we can drive along chatting to our passenger. Reading is the same. The more practise that a child gets the easier it becomes and the more spare capacity he has for processing the meaning of the text. I have written the above as if it is meant for a dyslexic child but would this not be applicable to any child? Any child who has not learnt to read fluently, a child who has not learnt to recognise words but is only able to identify words will not be able to comprehend what he reads. As such I do not agree with all these writers who keep writing and saying that dyslexics have a reading comprehension problem. Dyslexics can and do become fluent readers and once they are fluent readers they have no problem comprehending what they read.

Your comments will be appreciated.

Coincidentally an article stating that dyslexics have a problem with reading comprehension was published on the internet while I was writing the above article.
It can be found here:


Sarah Cox said...

Wonderful! I whole heartedly agree with everything you said.

Let me give you one example that recently happened with my 4th grade son with Dyslexia. He brought home a test that had some reading comprehension questions as well as some vocabulary questions on it. He scored a 44% I was not happy and neither was he. So, I sat down and read the questions to him and had him answer them orally to me. He did much better and would have received a passing grade had the teacher given him the accommodations that are listed on his IEP of having the questions read aloud to him.
In this instance, he had the vocabulary and language skills to do well on this test, he just wasn't able to correctly read the questions.
So, I believe when he does become a fluent reader that he will not have any problem comprehending what he reads.
Thank you for your articles, they are wonderful!

Luqman Michel said...

You can rest assured that when your son has learnt to read fluently he will have no problem comprehending what he reads.
Thank you once again for your comments.

dave cooer said...

yes, we have known this for some time and use the Neale Analysis- which has two sets of equally difficult passages - one is read by the student and questions asked , and the other is read to the student.
The comprehension scores nearly always show a massive difference in comprehension between the self read and read to.

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you Dave for your observation and comment.It is nice to get confirmation of what I have found while teaching. I wish you success in your consultations.

Anonymous said...

Hi, It is nice to get confirmation of what I have found while teaching. thanks for sharing.

Luqman Michel said...

Thank you. Regret the late response. I just returned home after a 3 months holiday.

Anonymous said...

Please excuse me for asking on this thread, but are you a dyslexia tutor who is able to read the Arabic script fluently whilst not being an Arabic speaker? If so I would really appreciate some advice. Thank you.

Luqman Michel said...

Regret the late response. I have been away on holiday. Yes, I teach dyslexic children but no I don't speak Arabic. I speak English, Malay, Tamil and Mandarin.
Wish you well.