In Loving Memory of Samuel Bomgard
Effective dyslexia remediation specifically designed for older struggling readers (age 7+).

Comprehension Strategies for Struggling Readers

Diagram depicting language development

In language development (see illustration), a child is to progress from initial intuitive communication, to verbal communication, to reading and reading comprehension. The most mature stage would include the ability to comprehend complex books and articles, as well as the skill and linguistic freedom to clearly and correctly articulate thoughts, concepts, emotions, and so forth in their own authorship.

As children progress in Dynaread and are gradually growing in their ability to read longer and more complex texts, as well as texts outside of Dynaread, comprehension strategies will help them obtain the most out of reading.  

It is important to equip the child with proper comprehension strategies, as it ultimately is comprehension which delivers the fruit of reading. Without comprehension reading is a meaningless effort.

The following techniques will help a child maximize reading comprehension. The techniques are listed in a logical sequence. Though each suggestion can be used stand-alone, the logical progression as listed below does make sense.

Be selective in what you read and know why you read

During school years a child is required to read certain materials. One reads a paragraph on History to gain an understanding on a specific historic topic. A Math book paragraph is read to explain a certain mathematical concept. A story book or novel may be read for reasons of enjoyment. I am personally a great believer in purposeful reading. Consciously selecting what you read and why introduces valuable focus.

Teacher suggestion: Ask the child to formulate or express why they have chosen what they are about to read.

Pay careful attention to punctuation

Reading is supposed to cause us — in our mind — to hear the author speak. Listen to speech: One hears the pitch go up and down (inflection); one hears pauses both long and short; one hears questions or acclamations. It is important to express these when we read to ourselves. Skipping them may cause us to entirely miss the point. 

Teacher suggestion: Ask the child to read out loud, and pay particular attention to their inflection and expression of the different punctuation. Some children are helped by letting them verbalize punctuation [period]. Lovingly correct them, demonstrating proper inflection and punctuation commands in a somewhat exaggerated fashion and asking them to read the sentence or paragraph again.

Read thought by thought and paragraph by paragraph

Teach the child to pause after each introduced thought andafter each paragraph. Example:

Charlotte's Web,by E.B. White, opens with:

"Where's Papa going with that ax?" said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast.

E.B White sets the stage for the opening of the story. We see there's a Mother and Father, an individual named Fern (their child, maybe?). Breakfast. An Ax. This short opening sentence introduced multiple aspects of the story the child is about to read.

Teach the child to visualize those aspects, or main ideas of each thought and each paragraph. Reading too fast or being too inattentive to expressed thoughts will cause the text to become meaningless.

Teacher suggestion: Introduce a pause in the reading each time you observe that the writer introduces and expounds on an important thought, idea or stage. Point out to the child that these few sentences actually form a unity containing information that is important further down the story. This information should be reflected upon before going on in reading.

Teach to oneself what was read

Building on the thought by thought and paragraph by paragraph reading progress, train the child to ask themselves what it was that was shared by the author. Ask them to visualize each thought and paragraph, think it over, and then verbalize it in a manner as if they are explaining it to an imaginary person (or you, when you're there with them). Nothing forces a deeper understanding in reading than the call to teach what you have read. Teaching demands mastery. It forces a conscious reflection of all that was read. Applying this teaching requirement to each thought and paragraph trains a child to deeply internalize what was read.

Teacher suggestion: We need to guard against reading in such a way that these techniques take so much time that reading becomes disconnected (see also next paragraph). Teaching this technique of teaching oneself is aimed at helping the child discover the need to truly ask themselves the question: "Did I truly understand what I just read? And did I truly understand it at the level at which I would be able to teach it to or share it with others in my own words if I have to?" Once the child learns to progress through texts in this fashion, comprehension is bound it increase.

Understand how thoughts and paragraphs relate to one another

Each thought and paragraph relates to something sharedearlier and will also affect and influence what is said further in the text. Trainthe child to see these connections by asking questions about what is shared: howit affects what was shared earlier, or how it reflects on the overall subject orstory. Train them to ask such questions of themselves when reading. Thisprocess will initially be explicit, but should gradually become a silent,near-subconscious process: a habit.

Teacher suggestion: Seeing connections between related things is exciting. Cause and effect relationships are graphic to emphasize: Moral stories are full of them, as are, for example, texts on History. Explanatory and necessary relations are part and parcel of textbooks on subjects like Math and Science. Help the child discern that thoughts and paragraphs in textbooks are like building blocks: One needs to grasp the one before progressing to the next.

Encourage revisits

A focus on relationships between paragraphs will quickly reveal that an earlier concept or thought may not have been fully understood. Encourage revisiting previous text. Emphasize that reading is not about reaching the end of a text, but gaining an understanding about what the author is trying to say.

Teacher suggestion: Ask questions to probe whether the big picture is expanding and is being retained. Encourage revisiting earlier paragraphs to deepen understanding.

Produce a summary on what has been read

A thorough final step may be to encourage the child to produce a summary or essay on the topic just read. Like teaching, writing about a topic demands proper comprehension. It will reveal to the child whether or not comprehension was attained. If lacking, it will encourage revisiting the text to dig a little deeper or retrieve some specific details.

For children with dyslexia written essaying may indeed be very challenging. A verbal summary may do just as well.