by Katherine Reilly
One essential skill students are called upon to master, is that of Reading Comprehension. Many a time, we are all obliged to ‘decipher’ a text, be it for school, exams, work or even daily activities. However, the lingering question which must be answered, is…
“What is Reading Comprehension?
Reading comprehension is a crucial skill we develop, which helps us understand the main meaning of a text, as well as the general ideas an author tries to convey.
This process is not as simple as one might think, since our brain literally processes:
- the meaning of the words in a text,
- how they are connected to each other,
- the level of the language,
- as well as the emotioanl impact the vocabulary can have.
All these factors come together as a whole and thus, convey a coherent sum of ideas to the reader.
A lot of my students keep asking me how to improve their comprehension skills. Many educators think this issue can be handled by making their students study more vocabulary. Admittedly, the richer your vocabulary is, the more likely you are to better understand what you’re reading.
However, this is not always enough to master a text you’re trying to grasp. Below, are a few approaches I use with my kids in class to help them improve this valuable skill.
By keeping notes of the most essential plot points or main ideas of a text, you can go through them at a later time to remind yourself of what you had previously read. This helps you organize your thoughts and in turn, better comprehend what you have been reading. Notes are a quick reminder of what you read before, offering a more cohesive interpretation of the whole text.
Keep Distractions at a Minimal
This sounds like a no brainer, but how many of us actually follow this advice? When studying, our minds need to focus on the material in hand. Cell phones, TVs or even a roomate can distract us. There are admittedly many written works that can be only understood if the reader fully commits himself to it. There’s a huge difference between reading a post on Social Media with the music turned on and studying a univeristy article which requires meticulous attention to detail.
Skim the Text
When reading a text, you don’t have to go through it completely linearly. Go through upcoming sections, skip backwards or re-read a section. Our brains DO NOT work in the same manner and not all readers understand text linearly. Take your time at taking the text apart and understanding it at your own pace by using your own approach.
JUST STOP if you get confused or tired.
Forcing yourself to understand something that has been burdening you for the last quarter of an hour will lead nowhere. If it’s a test which of course has a time limit and must be completed, the best approach would be to summarise what you just read and rethink the material in your own words. After having done so, focus on the main idea and then reach conclusions based on that.
Reading for Fun
If a person doesn’t enjoy reading, it will admittedly make it harder for him to master reading comprehension. Reading though, has many options and forms. One form of reading I enjoy most is graphic novels or comics. Blogs are also very popular and in most cases, not only refreshing but enjoyable as they offer a more ‘personal’ feel to them. One would be surprised as to how many alternatives are available to reading a book.
I intentionally left this one for last, as everyone thinks this is the answer to improving your reading comprehension skills. Vocabulary though, will only get you so far, as there are so many aspects of a language such as idioms, metaphors and a whole range of ideas that have specific ways of being expressed. Practice makes perfect and by frequently reading, our skills will continuously blossom. Don’t depend on blunt memorization of words – it’s a waste of time.
If you follow these simple proposals, you’ll eventually achieve a better command, not only of this essential skill, but the language as a whole. Keep reading, enjoy it and always strive to improve yourselves.