A Bit About Reading Comprehension Problems

A young girl reading a book during Gemm Learning reading program.

Why Reading Comprehension Problems Matter

If you can’t understand what you read, what’s the point of reading it at all? This is common sense, but yet many students make it to college and still have reading comprehension problems.

And what a tragedy waiting to happen that is. If you can’t comprehend what you read, how can you expect to score well on exams? How can you expect to connect the content to prior knowledge, discuss it with others or apply the information learned to your present life?

Reading Comprehension Study

In one study reported by G.K. Georgiou and J.P. Das in the Journal of Learning Disorders in Jan 2014, they easily found 32 university students who had reading comprehension problems and average intelligence and average reading fluency. The researchers compared them to 60 controls who were in the same age group. The controls had the same level of intelligence and reading fluency but good reading comprehension.

As the researchers increased the working memory demands of the students, the poor comprehenders began having greater and greater difficulty. It was the poor level of reading comprehension that hurt the students, not the lack of fluency. Students could conceivably read chapters out loud and sound like a professional but walk away not having a clue about what the material was about.

Applying  Lessons To Current Education

This is exactly the problem that the Common Core State Standards are trying to resolve, and their plan of how this will happen is to get children to start thinking more about what it is that they read. Developing thinking skills and getting away from memorization skills is the name of the game for the Common Core Standards.

Interestingly, the researchers concluded that those who couldn’t comprehend as much had a deficient information processing system.

Could it have been that the students developed a deficient information processing system because the emphasis in school had never been on allowing the students to think on their own? Was it even possible that the students spent too much time in memorization or simply that they didn’t spend enough time in independent thinking

It’s something to think about.

Our reading programs work specifically on these kinds of skills, the key being automation of decoding as early in life as possible.  Decoding automaticity frees up thinking space for reading comprehension.

Source: Georgiou, G.K., Das, J.P. University Student with Poor Reading Comprehension: The Hidden Cognitive Processing Deficit. J Learn Disabili 2014, Jan. 6.

Common Core Standards Focus on Reading Comprehension

How to Get Kids Excited About Reading

Raising the Reading Comprehension Stakes

Your child’s school is presently shifting to embrace all the changes of the Common Core Standards. And because these standards emphasize deep understanding and critical thinking, reading comprehension is now considered an essential facilitating skill, not an end point goal.  Reading comprehension almost most be mastered at an earlier age. Here’s a short list of how those changes will affect your child.

1. Very few teachers in the past taught students how to analyze information. An example of this might be analyzing two different viewpoints on why whales make certain types of sounds. In the new Common Core Standards, students will have to discuss differences in the two viewpoints and then decide for themselves which viewpoint is correct and why.

Comment:  This kind of thinking requires deep understanding and sequential thinking.  For kindergartners and first graders this will in many cases be unfamiliar territory, but by no means impossible if their language and learning skills are healthy.  If your child is a struggling reader or learner however, these new skill requirements will be extremely challenging.

The Common Core State Standards make reading and learning efficiency a more urgent priority earlier in a child’s career.  In particular, because the standards require thinking, reading and listening have to be automatic and efficient.

Gemm Learning uses Fast ForWord to work specifically on automating these crucial learning skills.

2. Read to learn plays a larger role from 3rd or 4th grade.  In the interests of time, current curriculum is delivered mainly by the teacher in class.  The Common Core State Standards provide more opportunity for independent learning, where students learn material through their own reading.

Comment:  This raises the bar for reading comprehension, and heightens the risk for students who are unable to learn by reading.

3. The goal for students is to get to college. Thus, common core reading comprehension levels have been broken down into precise standards with certain requirements in the reading text for every level. If students aren’t reading at their grade level, their teacher will be expected to do what it takes to get the students up to grade level.

Comment: While these standards overlook the individual learning curve of different students, the standards themselves appear to be reasonably well conceived and are well over-due.  American students are amongst the worst readers in the Western world, and reading as a childhood past-time is becoming far too rare, in part due to low reading skills that make books hard work and not fun.

4. Critical thinking should be evidence-based. It should not depend on memorizing facts and taking multiple choice tests. They will be expected to make conclusions based on what they read from the pure evidence provided.

Comment: This is a well over-due and obvious innovation as it is how college education and business works in a post-Google word.  It replaces a knowledge memorization approach that belongs in the last century.  Importantly, because it removes the effort required to memorize screeds of material (that can be found easily online), it frees up time for students to practice deep understanding and critical thinking, the essential skills of the 21st century.

In summary, while the Common Core State Standards represent a hugely important step forward for the US education system, there is no question that the standards make the requirements make reading comprehension a key skill that has to be mastered earlier in life.  Reading comprehension in return requires decoding efficiency, a key target of the at home Fast ForWord program by Gemm Learning.



How the Common Core Affects Kids with Learning Disabilities

There’s no doubt that the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI) has caused some controversy. Educators across the nation are strongly in favor or against the streamlining of our education system.

While there are benefits and disadvantages to this colossal change, one thing is certain: there’s more of an intentional focus on critical thinking nationwide than ever before.

Critical thinking is what gets students through college. It’s how new professionals find success. And it’s how we apply our years of education to real life circumstances – the things that matter. And often, children with reading problems, dyslexia, or auditory processing disorder don’t have access to the type of education they need to develop problem-solving skills in a traditional classroom. The focus on memorization and outward performance is overwhelming to a child whose brain isn’t able to make the usual verbal connections.

But these students can continue through to the next grade by memorizing the necessary facts to pass the test. The effects of the learning disability go undetected; students aren’t provided with the conditions needed for critical thinking to happen.

With the Common Core’s emphasis on critical thinking skills, teachers will focus more and more on this essential area of education. A student’s learning disability might come to light sooner with the greater emphasis on practical application. And the students can be provided with the learning environment and treatment they need for success.

In an article by the National Center for Learning Disabilities, special educator Chelsea Miller explains that while standardized testing can be especially difficult for students with learning disabilities, it’s fortunate that the CCSSI encourages creativity in teaching. The new standards aim to boost academic performance and career-readiness for all students, even if it means offering a variety of ways to complete assignments or an increased use of technology in the classroom. The expectations for students might be higher, but the student outcome and ability of teachers to notice and adjust to student needs will be, too.

The Common Core affects kids with learning disabilities, and it can be for the better. It’s already a significant change for all of us. Let’s use the transition to our children’s advantage.

How to Get Kids Excited About Reading

For kids with learning disabilities, reading is often a difficult task that recalls memories of overwhelming experiences. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.

If your child has a learning disability, the most important step is to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. Check out Fast ForWord for effective treatment of the root of the problem. This will help your child develop those missing cognitive functions that are necessary for enjoying and succeeding in school and beyond.

Once your child is on the road to retraining his or her brain, you can begin introducing a new way to look at reading. While it was once frustrating and seemingly impossible, it can now be viewed as a fun activity. It introduces new ideas and points of view, all in ways children can relate to deeply. Reading can give lonely children new friends and struggling learners a way to go at their own pace. Try these activities to learn how to get kids excited about reading:

  • Introduce comics and graphic novels as alternatives to traditional books. Children need to understand that reading isn’t about finishing another book to get a good grade. It can be entertaining, and the picture-word format of comics might resonate with your child.
  • Conduct a scavenger hunt that involves reading simple clues.
  • Attend library events. Whether its the summer reading program or craft day, your local library is sure to have fun activities that encourage reading for kids. That extra incentive, along with meeting new friends, can spark a love for literature.
  • Introduce the dictionary early. Children often rise to the occasion – and they might do just that if they’re challenged, with an incentive, to learn new words while reading. Create a game out of using one new word learned from reading throughout the day.
  • To encourage plot comprehension, encourage your child to draw a scene from the story after reading everyday. This develops creative expression and allows the child to take the story into his own hands.
  • Play board games that involve some – but not so much that it’s overwhelming – reading of cards or spaces on the board.

What makes reading fun for your child? Share your suggestions.

The 4 Cognitive Stages of Child Development

According to the child psychologist, Jean Piaget, there are four vital stages of cognitive development that every child experiences:

  1. Sensorimotor – birth through 18-24 months
  2. Preoperational – from 18-24 months up til age 7
  3. Concrete Operational – from age 7 to 12
  4. Formal Operational – from age 12 on through adulthood

Although these stages have specific age ranges, a child may be ahead of his age or lagging behind. However, no stage is ever skipped or eliminated.

Knowing your child’s cognitive stage is vital to helping him grow. Pinpoint your child’s place in the process with the following information:

The Sensorimotor Stage

Infants live in the present. They can’t predict what will happen. What they see is reality. It’s a time of experimentation. What can be thrown? What happens if the dog is hugged too tight or his tail is pulled? What does Mommy do if I throw food at her? Thought starts to formulate about behaviors causing something else to happen.

During this stage, the infant’s memory begins to form. One clear sign of this is a baby laughing or crying when you play a game. This happens around ages 7 to 9 months. Technically, this part of development is called object permanence.

When the baby begins crawling and walking, the motor cortex in the brain is developing. This paves the way for future intellectual development.

During this period of time, some language ability forms, allowing the baby to understand some words.

The Preoperational Stage

Symbolic thinking begins at 18-24 months. Language develops more and more, as well as memory and imagination. Because of the ability to remember, a child in this stage can understand that things happened in the past, and that playing make-believe isn’t real.

During this stage, a child operates primarily by intuition and can’t yet compare two options or see cause and effect. He only sees things from his own point of view at this time, making it difficult to think about things from someone else’s perspective.

The Concrete Operational Stage

Children begin to form their own thoughts and feelings from ages 7 to 12. They recognize that not everyone feels or thinks the same way, making this an exciting time to interact with children. However, a child during this stage can’t solve a lot of complicated problems in a specific way or system yet.

The Formal Operational Stage

Age 12 through adulthood is the stage of algebra, science and entertaining abstract thinking. It’s also the age when a child can begin to consider why something happened and what can be done to test variables acting on the situation.

Children start realizing the impact of being interrelated to everyone and everything else. They begin thinking about what is just, moral, ethical, and political. Great intellectual growth occurs during this stage as the child accumulates knowledge.

Regardless of your child’s growth pace, once you discover your child’s stage, you can help him develop the skills necessary to develop into the next stage. What activities have you used for the stages of child development? Share your experiences in the comments.