Month: November 2014

Reading Problems: A Brief Primer in Two Acts

I often think there is needless complication in the field relative to the varieties of issues that children present. From the perspective of having seen tons of kids over the years, I typically see two essential types of reading problems. Each one requires a different treatment approach.  I call them Type I or Type II Readers.

Type I Readers

Type I Readers are the ones typically referred to as “dyslexic,” as they have difficulty with word decoding, that is the translation of letters and parts of words into their spoken equivalent. They also have reading fluency issues, that is they read very inefficiently.

Years of clinical experience and a tremendous body of research highlights that phonological decoding is a cornerstone skill for adequacy in school. Acquiring the skill is a major goal in the early elementary grades.

The vast majority of children referred for special education assessments have Type I issues.

Type I kids do not respond to typical classroom instructional methods for developing reading, such as literature-based approaches. They need to have the skill of phonological decoding taught directly and systematically with multisensory, language-based approaches. Almost always, these children have associated deficits with spelling and written expression.

Type II Readers

Quite different than Type I readers are ones in this category,  referred to as Type II Readers. These kids decode and read fluently. There is none of the word-reading inefficiencies or oral reading fluency issues common to the first type. They just have trouble understanding what they have read. Similar to Type I, this proiblem can be mild, moderate or more severe.

With Type II, frequently, other language problems are underlying, such as weaknesses with vocabulary. When these children are asked questions about what they read, they often stare blankly with very little understanding. They often miss the details and subtlety of the text and have trouble with higher-order reasoning questions, such as with inferencing and drawing conclusions.

Similar to the Type I child, the Type II children also need to be taught systematically and directly strategies for processing information and comprehending. Training these children to more actively visualize and to create more visual anchors in the way that they may take notes from their reading are good points of instructional emphasis.  There are many other skills that Type II children can be taught.

Takeaway Points:

If you simplify things a bit, you will find that there are two essential types of reading problems. These Types can be a identified with a good assessment. Once you have identified what type of reading problem child has, then this will help guide what to do next in terms of future remediation and instruction.

(Adapted from “The Shut-Down Learner,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D (2009 Sentient Publications) 



7 Keys to Comprehension

Susan Zimmermann covers reading comprehension strategies in 'The Seven Keys to Comprehension.'

Recently I had the good fortune of being able to interview Susan Zimmermann on The Coffee Klatch Network. Zimmermann is the author of The Seven Keys to Comprehension: How to help your kids read it and get it!

Within the interview, we talked about the challenges with comprehension. Susan highlighted some of the elements that research has shown contribute to successful comprehension.

Zimmermann’s Reading Comprehension Strategies

As she discusses in her wonderful book, successful readers do the following:

  1. Create mental images: Good readers create a wide range of visual, auditory, and other sensory images as they read. They also become emotionally involved with what they read.
  2. Use background knowledge: Good readers use their relevant prior knowledge before, during, and after reading to enhance their understanding of what they’re reading.
  3. Ask questions: Good readers generate questions before, during, and after reading to clarify meaning, make predictions, and focus their attention on what’s important.
  4. Make inferences: Good readers use their prior knowledge and information from what they read to make predictions, seek answers to questions, draw conclusions, and create interpretations that deepen their understanding of the text.
  5. Determine the most important ideas or themes: Good readers identify key ideas or themes as they read. They can distinguish between important and unimportant information.
  6. Synthesize information: Good readers track their thinking as it evolves during reading, to get the overall meaning.
  7. Use fix up strategies: Good readers are aware of when they understand and when they don’t.  If they have trouble understanding specific words, phrases, or longer passages, they use a wide range of problem-solving strategies. These include skipping ahead, rereading, asking questions, using a dictionary, and reading the passage aloud.

Reading Comprehension

Comprehension research received a great deal of attention in the 1990s, but has largely been overlooked for some time due to an emphasis that has been placed on decoding and reading fluency. If your child is struggling with aspects of comprehension, you may want to check out the interview and her reading comprehension strategies.

Give it a listen!

The interview aired on Tuesday, November 11, 2014. To hear the interview (and to access archived interviews), click here.


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