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Strategies to Improve Reading Comprehension

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Educators have the unique ability to improve lives outside the classroom by instituting best practices inside. Data from ProLiteracy shows that adults lacking basic literacy skills have higher unemployment rates. If those same adults could read at a sixth-grade level, it could generate a financial and scholastic ripple effect that would improve the lives of millions.

Several options are available to literacy-focused educators seeking to enhance their knowledge and effectiveness. Southern Oregon University offers an online Master of Science in Education with a Concentration in Reading and Literacy.

These four strategies to improve reading skills in the classroom are just the beginning:

  1. Rereading Books to Children

    Scholastic Parents maintains that parents and teachers who reread to their children/students can foster reading comprehension for their young charges. The nostalgia attached to books that adults enjoyed in primary or secondary school makes them more appealing when revisited. This strategy works well with children when they, too, start to make personal connections and recognize patterns between literary works.

  2. Using Prior Knowledge

    Teachers can use information that a student already knows about a book and then ask for predictions based on that knowledge. Taking this approach is an effective way to assess comprehension because it helps children make inferences either from their own lives or from other books they have read. The nonprofit Understood provides parents with resources to help students who suffer from learning challenges.

    The strategy of using prior knowledge is a key to reading comprehension for every student. Say a child is reading a story about an immigrant family in New York City in the early 20th century. Having prior knowledge about the tenements, the factories and child labor, can help a young reader better understand the story. With that background knowledge, the child can make inferences and draw conclusions.

  3. Teaching Systematic Phonics

    A program of systematic phonics instruction identifies a “carefully selected and useful set of  letter-sound relationships and then organizes the introduction of these relationships into a logical instructional sequence.”

    There’s evidence that reading printed materials aids comprehension. Education Week points to findings showing that “students who read in a print format were better able to remember the plot and sequence of events than those who read the same text on a screen.” Teachers who specialize in reading comprehension strategies will need to reconcile this information with the advent of the fully digital classroom.

  4. Questioning

    Read Naturally offers a comprehension strategy with curriculum meant to instill literacy at an early age. It promotes questioning as an aid to reading comprehension, stating that “[a]sking and answering questions about text is another strategy that helps students focus on the meaning of text.”

    The Harvard Graduate School of Education endorses The Right Question Institute for its overarching strategy. The goal of the institute is to “help all individuals learn how to ask better questions; participate more effectively in decisions; advocate for themselves, their families, and communities; and hold decision-makers accountable on all levels of democracy.” Asking questions becomes a way to improve reading comprehension and foster inclusivity. When educators take this approach, it encourages participation from students who normally do not share.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that even one year away from proven, pedagogically sound instructional strategies can impact reading comprehension, one of many yardsticks for academic success. Adding a graduate degree focused on reading, in particular, can help educators gain literacy best practices that will enable them to improve the lives of their students both in the classroom and outside. Additional benefits to a graduate degree include better marketability and higher salary potential.

Learn more about Southern Oregon University’s MSEd with a Concentration in Reading and Literacy online program.

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