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Reading Comprehension Problems: 4 Causes and 12 Solutions


I'm sure most you have experienced the act of reading a book, while your mind was wandering elsewhere.  So, you can probably appreciate how easy it is for youngsters to miss meaning while reading.  Although teachers, reading specialists and even parents spend an enormous amount of time instructing young learners how to decode the written word, they often neglect to fully teach the metacognitive skills required to comprehend text.


What are the Common Causes of Reading Comprehension Problems?
There are a number of indicators that can be used to flag students who will likely require explicit instruction in reading comprehension.
  1. Learners that have or had weak oral language skills when they were in preschool.  
  2. Students that have underdeveloped word decoding skills.
  3. Learners with weak executive functioning skills, especially in working memory which involves the use of one’s “inner eye” and “inner voice.”
  4. Learners with poor language processing abilities.  They may struggle with any of the following difficulties
    1. Semantic processing - the processing of perceiving words and placing them in a context that allows for deeper meaning.
    2. Vocabulary - all the words known by an individual person.
    3. Inferences - the act or process of reaching a conclusion about something from known facts or evidence.
    4. Text structure - the many ways text can be organized.
    5. Grammar - the study of the classes of words, their inflections, as well as their functions and relations in the sentence.


What are Some Reading Comprehension Strategies?
  • Teach students to be active participants in their reading.  Exhibit aloud your own inner voice as you use your own metacognitive skills to actively engage in reading.
  • Develop decoding skills to automaticity - so students have the “cognitive space” to engage with the text.
  • Foster a robust vocabulary by both teaching individual words as well as how to glean the meaning of new words from the surrounding text.
  • Teach the grammatical rules that make up language.
  • Instruct students about the morphological structure of words so that learners can figure out the meaning of many unknown words by evaluating prefixes, roots, and suffixes.
  • Illustrate higher order language skills and teach students how to question, infer meaning, make personal connections and generate predictions.
  • Teach students about text structure such as the setting, characters, initiating events, problems, resolution, explicit themes, cause and effect, compare and contrast, as well as problem and solution.
  • Show students how to annotate text or take notes that summarize and sequence important events.
  • Develop each student’s ability to generate mental imagery while reading.
  • Show learners how to create their own inner questions that can focus attention on content and help them to make meaningful connections.
  • Teach students how to monitor their attention and comprehension through mindfulness practices.
  • Do pre-reading activities that explain the meaning of key words, activate relevant prior knowledge and generate mental imagery.


Don’t feel that you have to teach all of these reading strategies to every student that has weak comprehension skills.  Instead, evaluate the needs of each student and tailor instruction to address their specific deficits.

If you would like to view a video blog that reviews this content, click on the image below:
Let me know if this is helpful!!

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/, www.goodsensorylearning.com, www.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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