Posted: February 18th, 2022
Difficulty in Reading Comprehension
Imagine this; you are seated in an exam room, the teacher announces that only ten minutes left. You are done with everything else except comprehension, looking at your paper. You have probably been reading it for the last thirty minutes, but you just don’t get it. You then hurriedly scribble something on the answer sheet, well who knows, you might get something out of it. But what is the cause of this? Why might one find it hard to read comprehension? The reasons for this difficulty vary among individuals. As mentioned by Ann Logsdon in her article “What Is Reading Comprehension Disorder?” these reasons include; attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder, autism, brain differences, Dyslexia, and poor vocabulary level/skills.
Reading comprehension requires three distinct processes—decoding, understanding, and retention. However, one may have a problem with this for various reasons, as mentioned above. The problems that hinder decoding include Dyslexia, while those that hinder comprehension include hyperactivity disorder, hyperplexia, differences in individuals’ brains. Those that cause retention problems include uninteresting material.
Understanding the material being read is quite critical in reading comprehension; however, Attention deficit, also referred to as hyperactivity disorder, hinders the comprehension process by affecting a person’s working memory (Logsdon). Children with this disorder cannot stay focused on any task and are easily distracted. As one might imagine, such tendencies make it nearly impossible for them to pay attention to anything that requires mental focus, much less understand it (Mayo Clinic Staff). Comprehension is no exception. Due to their inability to either stay put or focused, these individuals require a lot of self-restraint to achieve a simple task. Understanding comprehension, much less reading it to completion for such individuals, is a feat that most can not or would instead not attempt.
Similarly, some children cannot understand or have difficulty with comprehension due to hyperplexia-a condition that enables individuals to read and decipher words with ease but hampers their understanding of them. In her article “Recognizing Hyperlexia in Children,” Carol Bainbridge discusses the exceptional reading abilities displayed by children with this condition. She indicates that such children at an early can read things way beyond what is expected for children of their age. She moreover points out the impeccable memory that often accompanies this ability of reading. However, the downside is that these individuals struggle to understand the meaning of words and language, which leads to a limited vocabulary, resulting in poor understanding of comprehension in the class setting. This situation undoubtedly contributes to the overall difficulty in reading comprehension for such individuals as a critical aspect of understanding the literature is not accomplished.
On the other hand, brain differences among students are one factor that affects their comprehension reading abilities. According to Ann Logsdon, learners with specific comprehension deficits are likely to have reduced grey matter in brain regions that deal with language processing and executive functioning. As Logsdon points out in another article, “How to Improve a Child’s Language Processing Skills,” specifically in reading, problems for such students is the use of rare words with many syllables and too much non-essential information, which confuses them. Therefore, difficulty in reading comprehension for such learners can be linked to too many unimportant words and unnecessary details, which makes them unable to understand the literature.
Decoding of information is another crucial stage in the reading of comprehension, but conditions such as Dyslexia affects this process. People with this condition find it difficult to read eloquently due to an inability to recognize sounds in words (Understood Team). This issue often makes them take a long time to read anything. And even after taking such a long time to go through a piece of writing, they still find it hard to understand it. According to the article by the Understood Team, individuals with this condition can understand comprehension when it is read to them with much rapidity and ease compared to when they do it themselves. Therefore, difficulty in reading comprehension should not be taken as laziness on the part of the student since conditions such as this play a critical role in one’s ability to fathom any piece of literature.
In addition, among the many factors that contribute to difficulty in reading comprehension is poor vocabulary on the part of the learner. Children with limited vocabularies have poor abilities of understanding and decode the information they read, which in turn affects their retention. Their inability to understand the words in the texts presented to them makes it impossible to get anything. This situation might be because the learners are either not at a level where they have acquired enough vocabulary to understand the article or the context being too unfamiliar or using jargon related to a particular field or profession. Difficulty in reading and understanding comprehension in this case, therefore, can be attributed to three reasons; unfamiliar context, inappropriate reading material, and individual weaknesses of the learner.
Lastly, uninteresting reading material could be another reason causing difficulty in understanding comprehension. Boring material affects one’s ability to retain any information acquired from it. The material chosen to be read by the learner could be extraordinarily dull or simply not in line with the learners’ interests to a great extent as to not intrigue them. Such material could lead to boredom and disinterest in the material altogether. A study conducted on students in UiTM Kedah by Nordin and Lin Siew (78) showed particular themes that the students at the institution preferred to read. The most preferred reading materials featured themes that included movies, music, vacation, shopping, and hobbies. While the least preferred was on health, people, relationships, and sports. Difficulty in comprehension can, therefore, in part be attributed to uninteresting material.
Reading comprehension is a difficult exercise as it involves three processes. When one process is affected by one thing or the other, the reading of comprehension becomes something extremely difficult. These reasons could range from medical conditions to the learner’s individual ability to the choice of reading material. Instructors must be careful when selecting comprehension material, factoring in all the aforementioned causes of difficulty in reading comprehension.
Logsdon, Ann. “Signs Of A Reading Comprehension Learning Disability.” Verywell Family, 2022, https://www.verywellfamily.com/learning-disability-in-reading-comprehension-2162449.
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) In Children – Symptoms And Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 2022, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/adhd/symptoms-causes/syc-20350889.
Bainbridge, Carol. “Does Your Toddler Have Hyperlexia If He Is Reading At An Early Age?”. Verywell Family, 2022, https://www.verywellfamily.com/hyperlexia-definition-and-diagnosis-1449188.
Logsdon, Ann. “How To Improve A Child’s Language Processing Skills.” Verywell Family, 2022, https://www.verywellfamily.com/strategies-for-language-processing-problems-2162336.
Understood Team. “What Is Dyslexia | Understood – For Learning And Thinking Differences.” Understood.Org, 2022, https://www.understood.org/articles/en/what-is-dyslexia.
Silbert, Dr. “Poor Reading Comprehension – Tiger Tuesday.” Tiger Tuesday, 2022, https://tigertuesday.com/poor-reading-comprehension/.
Nordin, Razanawati, and Lin Siew Eng. “Text-Selection for Teaching Reading to ESL Tertiary Students: A Study on Genre and Content Preferences.” International Journal of Instruction 10.1 (2017): 71-84.
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