Reading Comprehension Affects All Learning


So often “reading comprehension” is  placed in a separate box, apart from history, science, and especially, math. Some studies even suggest that we are born with genetic predispositions to being “left” or “right” brained, further categorizing our ability to grasp knowledge. Does being adept at reading or good at math just come naturally? 

Whatever the truth of this may be and debate on this theory continues, I believe that we are asking the wrong question. How we learn is not a black and white issue. 

One thing, however, is for certain. Reading well is critical to comprehension in all subjects, for every subject tells a story. 

Being able to understand math directions alone can make a big difference in a child’s self confidence and therefore success. I have taught children who don’t read the directions “…because they’re boring and besides, I know what to do”. These children, inevitably, find reading difficult and, rather than stumble over words they can’t even pronounce and are not absolutely sure of (equation, difference, ascending order, digit, ordinal number, denominator, expression, addend, dividend, divisor, equivalent fraction, common multiple, etc.), would rather plunge in and hope for the best. In their early years, these same children look at the numbers in a word problem, and take a guess on whether to add or subtract. Later, when problems involve two or three steps, they are at a loss if unable to comprehend the story of the word problem itself. They will get a lower grade in math, if this is the case, but does it mean they don’t understand math?

I admit I am a romantic when it comes to reading. Reading takes you to fairylands, under the sea, to the moon, to the past and to the future, it builds understanding of others, which leads to caring about characters and growing the mighty roots of empathy.  But reading is also 100% practical. It points us in the right direction, it teaches us how to assemble a shelf from IKEA (maybe), it helps us understand how to make up our own minds about what to believe and what not to believe-because in the written word we search for the truth, and, if we read deeply enough we can read between the lines, consider the source, and analyze and support the ideas that will lead us all to a better future. 

“Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Albert Einstein

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