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Ram graduates with reasonable grades and gets a job. One day, his boss walks in, hands him a document and says, “We have an important presentation coming up, Ram. Read this and drop me a summary of the key points by tomorrow morning.” Ram reads the document – but is a little lost. While he can read well, he cannot seem to understand enough to summarize its key points. It all seems so alien! He does not know where to begin! What is going wrong?
Reena sits in her classroom as the teacher talks about a new but important concept in science. She can hear her and understand the words as her teacher speaks. But she cannot grasp the concept being explained. After class she feels as enlightened as before the class! What is going wrong?
The scenarios are different but the problem is similar. Both Ram and Reena have problems comprehending. Comprehension is the ability to read, process and understand the information being presented.
It has been found that children across schools experience similar problems. Without the ability to comprehend, what they read is just a string of words with no meaning. They are unable to derive an understanding of what the writer or speaker is trying to communicate through these words. Without this ability, the reader/listener is unable to use the information efficiently, which is a critical need at school, and later in life. When a child struggles with comprehension, she/he also struggles with academic grades. Think about it- what she reads in a textbook is a sequence of words that just does not seem to make much sense. All she can do is desperately depend on rote.
Dependence on rote has limitations in today’s environment. It might get you to pass that one exam, but in a world where information is constantly changing, the need of the hour is the ability to take in new information and make sense of it. It is the ability to use it.
Comprehension is a complex skill that is developed only with practice. A structured program is vital, especially if your child does not have a huge propensity to read on his/her own. More importantly, it is quite different from fluency and word recognition. Comprehension is the ability to grasp and analyze the essence of the text so that they longer feel like just a string of words put together – it is a child’s ability to understand the characters, the main ideas, identify the details or the sequence, or even make predictions of what is expected to follow.
To comprehend you need to think, you need to analyze, and structure your thoughts. But when you can, you have the power to learn anything new, you have the confidence to master a new concept and you are ready to take the world on!
Poor comprehension skills can impact student grades and confidence.