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Improving Reading Comprehension

LD and ADD/ADHD Expert Advice from Eileen S. Marzola, Ed.D.

Q: I have an eight-year-old girl in the second grade. She reads and spells great. The problem is that after she's finished reading, she can't remember anything she's read. This has really brought her reading scores down, since she can't remember the story to answer the questions at the end. I find myself really losing patience with this problem. Any advice?

A: It's terrific that your second-grader is doing a good job in reading words, but I'm sure we'd both agree that the main point of reading is gaining meaning from what you read. If you want to help her with answering questions about what she's read, try previewing the questions first so she knows what she will be looking for. You can use small post-it strips to mark the place in the story where the answer can be found. Stress providing evidence for her answers. Many times young children answer questions based on their own background experience and don't really link the question to what they've just read.

If she's having trouble retelling her story, try stopping at shorter intervals rather than waiting till the end of the story to summarize what she's read. Your modeling how to do this will really help. Children often remember more if they fill in something called a graphic organizer. This is basically an outline of the story, with a place for characters' names and characteristics, the setting, the problem in the story, important events, and how the problem is solved. Just about every story follows this format. Once it's filled in, it will be much easier to capture what's important in the story for her retelling. And certainly have a talk with your daughter's teacher to see if these comprehension difficulties are major issues in class. Ask if she would recommend that your child receive extra help outside school. Good luck!

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For more than 20 years, Eileen Marzola has worked with children and adults with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders, and with their parents and teachers. She has been a regular education classroom teacher, a consultant teacher/resource teacher, an educational evaluator/diagnostician, and has also taught graduate students at the university level. Marzola is an adjunct assistant professor of education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She also maintains a private practice in the evaluation and teaching of children with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.


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