Developing Reading Comprehension skills: An introduction

Reading is such an important and essential skill. With it, kids can genuinely learn anything entirely independently - if sufficiently motivated. It underpins all future learning and their ability and confidence to interact with the world around them. Too often, the only recommendation offered to young readers is to practise, practise, practise and you'll reap the rewards of such endeavour. There is truth in this, however there also some practical tips and tricks which can really help kids become conscious of what it means to comprehend, and extract much more from the material they are reading.

When children are learning to read an immense amount of their processing power is devoted to decoding and recognising words. Often so much so, that little brain energy is reserved for developing an understanding of the context or creating images of what the text is talking about. There is an important transition that young readers go through (usually around Year 2) where they begin to transition from 'learning to read' to 'reading to learn' - and this is all about allocating more brain power to comprehending.

Developing comprehension is about working with small enough chunks of writing (maybe just a sentence at a time), and checking that the context can be imagined and understood. A deep understanding can be checked by asking a child to describe their imagery in detail, and asking them to talk around the image making inferences, drawing conclusions or predicting what might happen next. It can be a really fun activity, but it takes time and too often reading can feel like an exercise with a time constraint. As this process steadily becomes more automatic, larger and larger chunks can be added.

In assessments, like the APT, we evaluate how easily candidates can interpret and analyse text, use contextual clues to identify new or unusual vocabulary, and their recognition of different writing genres. Using APT's academic profiling measures, we can identify if candidates are able to allocate enough of their cognitive resources to the purpose of understanding. If our evaluation identifies gaps in this area, we can help families find the right support to work on this essential skill.