Try reading the passage below. Is it difficult for you to understand? Believe it or not, this is what it looks like when a child reads with 91% accuracy. That might seem high, but is it enough to comprehend?
When children do not read with 98% accuracy, it affects their comprehension. How can they understand fully what they are reading when words are either left out or misread? This might be misdiagnosed as a comprehension issue if the child is reading silently and answers questions incorrectly. As you can see, the core issue in this case is decoding. If the child cannot lift the words off the page, he or she will not derive meaning. Viewing this solely as a comprehension problem overlooks the root cause.
While the goal of reading instruction is always comprehension, systematic phonics instruction must occur in the primary grades and be taught thoroughly to form the foundation for comprehension. “There is no comprehension strategy powerful enough to compensate for the fact that you can’t read the words,” stated Dr. Anita Archer in her excellent book, Explicit Instruction. If there are gaps in children’s understanding of the alphabetic principle, it will affect their performance in the upper grades. We can all agree that reading without meaning lacks purpose, and writing without coherent ideas is meaningless. Once foundational skills are mastered and stored in long term memory, the brain can be actively engaged to read for comprehension.
(High Five Literacy and Academic Coaching is located in Plainview, Long Island.)
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