Did you know the act of reading is an extremely complex process? To properly comprehend written text, it takes teamwork from various parts of the brain to make sense of symbols and shapes to unravel its true meaning.
Like an onion, there are many layers surrounding the core of a sentence. Depending on the context, a sentence is made up of various words with different meanings. And, when arranged in alternating ways, the meaning of those words can change.
We learn these words and their meanings while going through the education system, however, some people face roadblocks that do not allow them to properly understand the meaning of a group of words. That said, there are many ways to improve reading comprehension for both children and adults alike.
What is Reading Comprehension?
Reading comprehension is the ability to understand what you are reading. It’s an interactive process that uses a certain set of fundamental skills to transform words into meaningful sentences before, during, and after reading a piece of literature.
While reading text, we use awareness to understand the individual pieces of language while connecting letters and sounds to develop meaning.
Furthermore, reading comprehension demands that we appreciate words and develop a deep vocabulary. It also requires the ability to follow the organization of words within sentences and paragraphs to draw inferences from its contents.
Why is Reading Comprehension Important?
Reading comprehension is necessary because, without it, we would not be able to infer the true meaning of literature. Just being able to read isn’t enough; we must understand the argument, story, or lesson conveyed from written words. You may be able to read the words in a foreign language, but without comprehension you won't know what you are reading or its meaning.
Being able to grasp the essence of a story helps us to paint a picture in our minds. It allows us to retain information so that reading is more enjoyable and entertaining.
Understanding what you are reading is also crucial for work and school. Work requires us to digest dense reports, read and reply to correspondence, understand customer needs, and so much more. Even social media requires comprehension to be able to communicate in this genre effectively.
If you are a student, it’s important to understand readings from class textbooks so that you can excel in your studies.
What Causes Reading Comprehension Problems?
Typically, a learning disability affects a person’s reading comprehension skills. That said, other issues can also trigger reading comprehension problems in individuals. As a result, they struggle with basic reading skills and are unable to remember what they’ve read or decipher the meaning of a sentence or paragraph. Common causes of reading comprehension problems are:
- Dyslexia: Dyslexia is a learning disorder that causes issues with speech and how letters relate to words. It affects sections of the brain that process and parse language.
- Attention-deficit Disorder (ADD): ADD is a neurological disorder that causes problems with certain behavior such as being able to focus on reading or other tasks.
- Poor Decoding Skills: Decoding skills are the ability to recognize sounds and sound blends (phonemes) that create words. Essentially, without the ability to decode, we are not able to pronounce words. Most people hear the word they are reading internally. Poor decoding skills affect reading comprehension negatively for those with this disorder.
- Poor Language Processing Abilities: People with poor language processing skills struggle with semantic processing, vocabulary, inferences, text structure, and grammar.
10 Ways to Increase Reading Comprehension
For those who are struggling with reading, it’s important to practice on a daily basis to develop and strengthen your skills. Here are 10 simple ways that can help improve reading comprehension over time:
Use Context Clues
When you are not able to understand the vocabulary in what you are reading, you can still use context clues to make sense of a sentence. Context clues are found in the words within sentences and other surrounding sentences. Using the words in the sentence that you know you can possibly infer what the sentence is about.
Visualize What You are Reading
While reading, visualize what you think the author is trying to convey. Let your imagination run wild and get lost - but don’t forget to come back. This will help connect yourself to the story. Read Aloud If a piece of literature seems too complex to read or if you are simply exhausted, reading aloud will often help your understanding of the literature.
Use Replacements for Difficult Names
It can be annoying when you come across a name that you are unable to pronounce. And, if that name is repeated throughout a story, it’s easy to become frustrated and set the book aside.
Next time this happens, try using an alternative name. By doing so, the book will become more enjoyable. So, if Benedict Cumberbach is mentioned repeatedly, substitute Mr. B and your reading will be much smoother.
Ask Yourself Questions About What You Are Reading
Asking yourself questions about the text you are reading strengthens your overall understanding and helps with recall. Additionally, questioning what you’ve read helps develop essential critical thinking skills.
Unravel the Main Idea
While reading, try to think about the importance of the passage. Think about why the author wrote what they did and what it truly means. This will give you a better comprehension of what the author is trying to point out.
Improve Your Vocabulary
Expanding your vocabulary can greatly improve your reading skills. Learning new words helps you interpret sentences and parse information. Try reading more challenging books while gradually upgrading over time.
Use context clues within the text to try and guess what difficult words mean. Additionally, create flashcards with words from your readings to review later on. And, don't hesitate to use your phone and Google to look up words as you are reading. Some books on Kindle allow you to highlight the word and get a definition immediately.
Create a Summary
After reading a chapter in a book, try writing a summary about it (or just think about what you read). If you are not able to create one, this means you didn’t fully understand the text and should return back to it to identify the key points. To do this think about how you would explain the chapter to someone else.
Separate Your Reading into “Chunks”
Don’t try and read a book all in one day. Instead, try setting achievable goals. For example, you can say you want to read two chapters a day in a 12 chapter book to finish it in a week's time. By doing this, you will prevent burnout and will continue to keep reading.
Go at Your Own Pace
Don’t rush when reading. Set a pace and take the time to fully understand the text. As a result, your reading speed will naturally increase with time.
Reading Glasses for Reading Comprehension
Sometimes, not being able to clearly see small print can also affect your ability to focus on what you are reading. If you are over the age of 40, you could be suffering from presbyopia - an age-related issue that causes a natural loss of focusing. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to cope with Presbyopia such as using reading glasses to help sharpen text.
ReadingGlasses.com offers a large selection of designer reading glasses and sunglasses to help tackle age-related vision problems. We offer many styles, shapes, and colors to ensure you feel confident in the way you look. Free shipping and returns are always included with your order so that you are able to find the perfect pair of readers.