Reading Comprehension is the act of understanding what you are reading. It is an intentional, active, interactive process that occurs before, during and after a person reads a piece of text. When students read text, they are using a complex array of cognitive processes. They are simultaneously using their understanding of phonemes (sounds), and phonics (connections between letters and sounds) and their ability to construct meaning from the text. Optimal comprehension cannot occur unless phonemes and phonics are mastered, enabling rapid decoding, and reading is completely fluent. If decoding is not intact and reading is choppy, students will devote too much energy to sounding out the words to completely understand what they are reading.
Once reading fluency is mastered, there are three other requirements necessary for optimal comprehension: vocabulary knowledge, grammatical understanding and the higher order language processes known as critical thinking and executive functioning. To understand a piece of literature, readers must comprehend the vocabulary. For example, knowing the meaning of “gushing waterfalls” and “massive granite boulders” enables the reader to picture scenes from a national park. Readers must also have grammatical knowledge/comprehension. The more advanced sentence, “The dog was chased by the cat.” conjures up a dramatically different image from the simple sentence, “The dog chased the cat.”
Assuming that fluency, vocabulary knowledge and grammatical comprehension are all intact, the ultimate level of reading comprehension requires a higher order of language processing. This involves the critical thinking process of inference-making, including predicting outcomes and drawing conclusions. It also involves understanding text structure, whether it is a a narrative format for short stories and novels or a main idea and supporting details format for textbooks like history and science.
Finally, a great comprehender must use excellent executive functioning skills. This means monitoring our understanding, relating new information to previously learned information about the subject and rereading this information when necessary for ultimate understanding. Executive functioning also prompts readers to take notes for long-term memory and to allow time to process, organize and memorize information for test preparation and writing essays.
Reading comprehension requires excellent oral language skills. This means excellent:
> Phonemic awareness
> Vocabulary knowledge
> Grammatical comprehension/expression
> Critical thinking
– making inferences
– drawing conclusions
– predicting outcomes
– cause-effect relationships
> Text comprehension
– main ideas/supporting details
> Executive functioning
– monitoring understanding
– assessing the time needed to master the information
How Can We Help?
The specialists at Jodie K. Schuller & Associates are professional speech and language therapists, many with over 25 years of experience in communicative disorders. Licensed by the state of California as speech-language pathologists, our therapists have also completed advanced training in specific techniques to enhance oral and written communication. Therapists have been trained to help children with social challenges using Michele Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking Curriculum. To help those with delayed speech development, therapists have taken advanced training in the Talk Tools approach to oral motor therapy and the Cycles approach to phonology. Having attended the Childhood Apraxia (CASANA) Conference, therapists have been trained to use the Kaufman, Strand and Prompt methodologies, among others, to help those with apraxia of speech. Therapists have studied the various methodologies recommended to treat children on the autism spectrum including PECS and Floortime. They are equipped to help nonverbal children using American Sign Language (ASL) and Alternative and Augmentative (AAC) devices. To facilitate the development of reading and written language development, therapists have attended training programs from coast to coast including post-graduate courses offered by the Landmark School of Education, the Wilson Reading System (based on Orton Gillingham) and the complete range of programs developed by Lindamood Bell including LIPS, Visualizing and Verbalizing, On Cloud 9 Math and Seeing Stars. Therapists have also been certified by the International Association of Orofacial Myology (IAOM) to diagnose and treat breathing and swallowing problems related to unhealthy oral resting postures, sucking habits and tongue thrust.