The Importance of Reading Comprehension

13 February, 2020
Reading is an indispensable skill in today's society. But sometimes it's hard to understand what one reads. In the following article, we'll explain the importance of teaching reading comprehension to children.

Reading is a skill that’s acquired little by little over time and with practice. The last dimension of reading that people develop is reading comprehension.

Fully understanding what you read is essential when it comes to learning new information and content. It’s the basis of being a good student. Unfortunately, there are many children who struggle with achieving this goal.

That’s why it’s important to teach this ability early on, so that children learn to read from a young age.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.”

The cognitive processes involved in reading comprehension

There are four different phases to the reading process. Each one of them is relatively autonomous and acquired to perform a specific function. The four cognitive processes involved in the act of reading are: perception processes, lexical processes, syntactic processes, and semantic processes.

1. Perception processes

These are responsible for the decodification and the recognition of letters or written characters.

2. Lexical processes

These are put into action when you process a word. To carry this out, the Coltheart model (1980) describes the use of two kinds of routes:

  • The lexical route: connecting the graphic signs with the meaning directly. The reader using this route is reading the words visually. They’re familiar with them and have the words stored in their memory.
  • The phonological route: converts the letters into phonemes to arrive at the meaning.
The Importance of Reading Comprehension

3. Syntactic processes

This involves the processing of sentences with the end goal of building a syntactic structure that is appropriate for grouping words. For this, Mitchell (1987) develops a model that defines a series of strategies in two different stages:

  • In the first stage, the reader builds a provisional syntactic structure with a basis in the analysis of three keys to grouping words: the order of the word, the grammatical categories, and the punctuation signs as well.
  • In the second stage, the reader accesses the semantic and pragmatic information presented in the sentence. Moreover, this is the key to deciphering the meaning of the words. It’s also part of the analysis the reader applies to structures, in order to see if their interpretation of the meaning is correct.

4. The semantic process

This is implicated in reading comprehension. According to Kintsch (1998), it’s necessary to do the following to truly comprehend:

  • Extract the meaning and ideas of the text.
  • Activate prior knowledge about the subject.
  • Make inferences, auto-regulate, and maintain motivation.

Reading comprehension

To achieve reading comprehension, first you have to develop phonological awareness. This is the capacity to understand words that are comprised of sounds. Later, you acquire the automation and fluidity and vocabulary. Finally, you learn to assimilate the information and apply comprehension strategies.

Definitively, reading comprehension consists of analyzing information in a semantic way. It’s about reading slowly, paragraph by paragraph, trying to understand the meaning of the text.

For this, you have to pay a lot of attention and avoid just skimming the text while reading. Sometimes we tune out and continue reading when we aren’t really absorbing the material. You sometimes go through various pages before even realizing it.

“Reading has no purpose if you don’t understand what you are reading.”

The Importance of Reading Comprehension

The importance of reading comprehension

Today, it’s rare to come across someone who doesn’t read. In today’s society, most people are literate. But it’s common to find people who don’t have their reading comprehension completely developed.

Reading correctly isn’t just about pronouncing and having good fluidity. It’s also a much more complex process where the final goal is comprehension.

Clearly, learning and the assimilation of knowledge cannot be achieved without a good level of reading comprehension. Moreover, acquiring this skill early can prevent having problems with academic work at school.

Therefore, we should push children to develop this ability from a young age because it’s also an essential instrument for oral and written communication. Likewise, it gives us knowledge and the power to interpret the world around us.

Thanks to reading comprehension we can more easily resolve problems, whether they’re academic problems or some dilemma we encounter in our daily lives.

In this age of technology, we have a lot of information within our reach. If we don’t develop the capacity to understand it, we’ll be letting a valuable opportunity to enrich ourselves as human beings to pass us by. In this sense, it’s worth highlighting the following phrase:

“The more that you read, the more things you’ll know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”  – Dr. Seuss.

  • Coltheart, M. (1980). Deep dyslexia: a review of the síndrome. En M. Coltheart, K.E. Patterson y J.C. Marshall (Ed.), Deep Dyslexia, (pp. 22-47). Londres: Routledge y Kegan Paul.
  • Cuetos, F. (1996). Psicología de la Lectura. Madrid: Editorial Escuela Española.
  • Kintsch, W. (1998). Comprehension: A paradigm for cognition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Mitchell, D. C. (1987). Reading and syntactic analysis. En J. Beech y A. Colley (Ed.), Cognitive approaches to reading (pp. 87-112). Chichester: John Wiley y Sons.