The Key to Reading Comprehension

Speed & Accuracy Enable Fluid Comprehension

For most children comprehension can be achieved when several conditions are met. The first is a reasonable command of content. We don’t expect kids to understand a social studies chapter about continents if they have not first studied towns, states, countries and oceans. Without content building and a frame of reference, a child cannot comprehend, even if the words can be easily read.

Another requirement for comprehension is that the material is presented in a clear and organized manner. Even a simple story is difficult to understand if not presented well. On the other hand, principles of quantum physics can be understood by non-scientists if the material is presented in a clear enough manner that meets the reader at his or her own level of knowledge.

When these criteria are met, comprehension will occur as long as children can read accurately and quickly – fluently. A deficiency in reading fluency can sabotage a child’s comprehension potential. It’s our goal at Ravinia Reading Center to teach children the reading skills necessary to attain independent reading fluency. As a result, they will more easily comprehend what they read.

That’s not to say anything is wrong with teaching comprehension. Many children can benefit from direct instruction in comprehension strategies, and all children should be taught how to monitor their own comprehension. All children should know, for example, to slow down or re-read when the going gets tough. All children also need to learn to facilitate their own comprehension by actively practicing comprehension strategies like integrating ideas and making mental summaries.

At Ravinia Reading Center, we tell our families that instruction in reading comprehension strategies is best if carried out by your child’s classroom teacher during the school day, using curriculum materials. Meanwhile, our focus will be on building skills for fluency, because reading fluency is the prerequisite skill to advanced reading comprehension.