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Why Comprehension?

Why study reading comprehension?


My child is clever but won't read books in English… Why?


Because they are decoding the words but are not comprehending what is being written!


Children begin to learn English in various ways, initially mimicking words that they hear their parents saying or picking up simple phrases that they hear on the television or at school. Children then move on to learning phonics - how words are structured, and they understand the initial sounds and then move on to more complicated words using blends. Learning to spell and say words phonetically is essential for learning during these formative years. Many students, when learning English, will learn how to decode words, hand in hand at having a reasonably good understanding of what these words mean. Many children in China have been taught to decode words, but these skills alone can take you so far; comprehending the words is, I believe, key to success.


Reading comprehension and just reading are two different things altogether. Reading involves translating and decoding text into sounds and spoken words, whilst reading comprehension involves taking what was just read and deriving meaning from those words. In simpler terms, reading comprehension is the ability to read, understand, process and recall what was just said. These are crucial skills and are the backbone to formal qualifications in the UK and elsewhere, where English is spoken.


Having taught English to students for the past 25 years, I've witnessed time the time again, the child who can read fluently and yet can't fully comprehend a given text. Good teaching of comprehension really helps to unlock the study of English. Skills of understanding inference and prediction are necessary to move on from the straightforward 'Point, Evidence, Explain' (PPE), which seems to be so prevalent in many schools' comprehension tests. Good reading comprehension is about depth and should guide the student and give the thirst to read more literature. Good comprehension teaching is an enabling tool; poor teaching creates a barrier which they will never break through.

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