Reading comprehension is a valuable and necessary tool in the learning process. It allows the reader to expand his vocabulary, understand the text he is reading, and use various strategies as he might need them in order to improve learning. It is necessary because it shapes the reader’s understanding of ideas and words. It assists his ability to make sense of ideas and concepts. It can even affect various parts of public life, such as the political arena. In assessing the reader’s state of reading comprehension, there are three levels: literal, interpretive, and applied.
If the reader is not satisfied with his own level of reading comprehension, all is not lost. There are means by which to improve it. These include growing one’s vocabulary, utilizing multiple senses, and changing one’s reading speed. All of these tools serve to advance the learning process. In order for one to understand the value reading comprehension possesses, one must first understand what it is. Reading comprehension is “the process of understanding or making meaning when reading” (Elish-Piper, 2010).
The reader can use what he knows to get a grasp of the material he is reading. For example, a large vocabulary—understanding the meanings of many words—can help someone understand a wide variety of texts. The text can usually be placed into a specific category. For example, a novel about an unsolved crime would be in the category of a mystery. The reader can then place the text into a proper context. For the purposes of our mystery novel, it could be for the reader’s own enjoyment, or perhaps an assignment for a college course.
Elish-Piper asserts that “when the reader is able to connect these three key components,” it is much easier for that person to comprehend what he is reading. If the reader needs to, he can use strategies to help comprehend the text better. Elish-Piper also gives ideas for those strategies. With our mystery novel example, the reader could identify the “basic elements” of the story, which are present with any novel. These include plot, setting, and the main characters. Putting one’s self in the position of characters in the text could also help.
Asking questions periodically is also a positive way of self-checking for knowledge and comprehension of the text. One might ask why this comprehension is so important. The very definition of reading comprehension serves to help answer that question. If the reader does not understand what he is reading, he probably is not gaining anything from it. It would be tantamount to staring at a book written in a foreign language. Learning does not happen by osmosis; it happens through understanding. It also allows us to make sense of ideas and concepts.
The wider the variety of texts one has read and comprehended, the more knowledge that person has gained. A person with increased knowledge, therefore, understands more ideas and concepts than he did before. This can impact a wide variety of areas. It can even effect areas of public policy. Politicians pass laws, and these laws are (obviously) comprised of words. In order for these leaders to understand how their legislation will affect their intended group, they have to understand what they are writing and reading.
Beyond this, policy itself is sometimes designed to shape the practice of education—and thus reading comprehension itself. Over the past years, policy makers have utilized “assessment data” in the various field of education, including reading comprehension, for “education purposes” (Moskowitz & Stephens, 2004). In supplement to policy makers, educators have their own views on reading comprehension. There are three levels of reading comprehension (Gambrell, Morrow, & Pressley, 2007). The first level is “literal. ” Literal reading comprehension is the understanding of the base of what is in the text.
It is the most basic level and includes items that are generally not left up to interpretation. These can include names, dates, places, and the like. The second level of reading comprehension is “interpretive. ” This type of reading comprehension is not concerned so much with what is actually present, but rather, what one can gather. Reading between the lines and drawing from the reader’s own knowledge, and answering subjective questions, helps. Finally, the third and most advanced level of reading comprehension is “applied.
” Bluntly, this level allows the reader to utilize what is present in the text, make sense of it using context clues, and then using the knowledge gained to learn and understand concepts and ideas outside the scope of the text at hand. Perhaps the reader is not satisfied with his level of reading comprehension. All is not lost; there are means to improve. The most obvious way to improve reading comprehension is to grow one’s vocabulary. It is never too late to learn new words. However, there is more that one can do than the obvious. Using multiple senses is an out-of-the-box way to understand new material.
Combining visual and auditory senses is a helpful way to increase comprehension (Woolley, 2010). The reader can use his imagination to set the scene in the text and then read the text aloud or listen to an audio book. Making an outline of the crucial points of the text and then reading that aloud is another way to reiterate key points. Moreover, reading slowly with a purpose as opposed to reading for speed is another way to be sure the reader understands details (Newkirk, 2010). “Slowing down,” “memorizing,” and “savoring passages” are steps in this beneficial process.
No matter one’s level of education, reading comprehension is an invaluable tool for success in life. Once a reader understands what reading comprehension is, he can assess his level of comprehension, and then take one or more of a large number of steps to increase his ability. This, in turn, will help him be able to make sense of the world around him, and thus, put himself in a better position to succeed with whatever he does. References Elish-Piper, L. (2010). Understanding reading comprehension: Information and ideas for parents about reading comprehension.
Illinois Reading Council Journal, 38 (3). 49-52. Gambrell, L. B. , Morrow, L. M. , & Pressley, M. (2007). Best practices in literacy instruction. New York, NY: Guilford Press. Moskowitz, J. H. & Stephens, M. (2004). Comparing learning outcomes: International assessments and education policy. London: RoutledgeFalmer. Newkirk, T. (2010, March). The case for slow reading. Educational Leadership, 67 (6). 6. Woolley, G. (2010, June). Developing reading comprehension: Combining visual and verbal cognitive processes. Australian Journal of Language & Literacy, 33 (2). 108-125.
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