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    #99503 - 04/14/11 06:17 AM Poor Reading Comprehension (when alone)
    Goody Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 03/04/10
    Posts: 9
    Our daughter (age 7 - 2nd grade) fails tests on reading comprehension, when she is asked to read a book on her own. Her teacher has brought it to our attention and is baffled at our daughter's poor scores.

    As background on our daughter:
    -she loves to read and always has a book
    -she is in an advanced program and gets straight A's
    -she scored 152 IQ and 99.9 academic
    -She is social, has good friends, and makes friends easily
    -She likes to please and is never in any trouble


    -She makes 'sloppy' mistakes when taking tests (not paying enough attention to the question)

    -She appears to need more guidance/support than average (again, if she is reading to someone and getting feedback, she is fine, but if she is on her own, she bombs)

    -And, when faced with a new test/event (of any kind, be it school, play, et cetera), she is very reluctant/timid. She typically does very poorly the first time on everything. Then, once she 'gets the lay of the land', she gains confidence and blows the doors off.

    So, are we dealing with insecurity? Or, are we dealing with lack of concentration? Or, something else?

    And, what do we do to help her?

    #99507 - 04/14/11 07:59 AM Re: Poor Reading Comprehension (when alone) [Re: Goody]
    Grinity Offline

    Registered: 12/13/05
    Posts: 7207
    Loc: Connecticut
    Have you tried giving her tests of reading comprehension for books that are at a reading level similar to what she reads at home for pleasure?
    Is her home pleasure reading higher than her school reading group level?
    Has she been checked for dyspraxia? Is she physically well coordinate?
    Does she have friends who are performing at her level academically? if so, are they from her age group or older?
    Does she have siblings?
    Does she get her special academic needs met at school?
    Have your read Sylvia Rimm's 'Why Smart Kids get poor grades?'
    Does she play independently with things or only read/TV/Computer/Adult attention?

    You say that she is reluctant to try new things that she won't be instantly good at. Does she do it anyway, or use her other skills to wiggle out of that situation? hats off to her if she perseveres!

    Love and More Love,
    Coaching available, at

    #99509 - 04/14/11 09:02 AM Re: Poor Reading Comprehension (when alone) [Re: Grinity]
    Goody Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 03/04/10
    Posts: 9
    Thank you for the comments, Grinity.

    In answer...

    She is being tested using Lexile (and a second test called SRI, I think)

    If given the option, she will read below her reading level

    She is athletic and coordinated. She has not been tested for dyspraxia

    Her friends are all her age. Some are in her gifted class and performing at her level (and, in some cases, a bit higher) and some are not in gifted and are performing below her level

    We adopted her from China when she was one. She does not have sibblings.

    I am not sure how to answer if she is getting her special academic needs met at school. I think she is, but am not sure I fully understand the question.

    I have not read 'Why Smart Kids get poor grades?' as this is a new development for us.

    She has very little interest in TV. She won't even watch a Disney show with us (leaving us to watch the show while she goes to the computer to play educational games).

    She stays close to us for most of her time. She will sit at her table and draw, write, color, read, et cetera, while my wife or I will work at the computer. She will play some with Barbie's (mostly combing their hair), but only does so with us in the room. Very seldom does she go off, by herself, and play.

    As to trying new things, she is very competitive. This causes her to prefer to not try, rather than try and fail. So, we mostly have to nudge/push her at the beginning. But, last year, in a drama performance, she got stage fright and started crying. We thought that was the last time on stage. But, she signed up for a singing performance this year on her own and will be singing a solo. I would have never guessed that one.

    #99510 - 04/14/11 09:11 AM Re: Poor Reading Comprehension (when alone) [Re: master of none]
    Goody Offline
    Junior Member

    Registered: 03/04/10
    Posts: 9
    Thank you, master of none,

    She is missing key points and confusing key points.

    We have her read small amounts - a page or a few pages - after we have read them; then have her tell us what the key points are. She typically confuses the story and gets it wrong. We then ask her to re-read it and try again. Then, after being told to re-read and re-think, and knowing she missed on her first try, she will usually get it right the second time.

    #99513 - 04/14/11 09:40 AM Re: Poor Reading Comprehension (when alone) [Re: Grinity]
    Grinity Offline

    Registered: 12/13/05
    Posts: 7207
    Loc: Connecticut
    Originally Posted By: Grinity
    Have your read Sylvia Rimm's 'Why Smart Kids get poor grades?'

    It seems possible that your DD has learned that dependency has big payoffs - if so, above book may be helpful.

    It must be mystifying when she can't outline the main points after reading a page or two.
    Have you tried teaching her about graphical organizers to keep a cartoon of ideas while she reads? It may be that she can draw a time line, but can't get the words out. Since she likes to draw, what about asking her to make a drawing of what she is reading.

    You might have luck with the book
    it sounds as though your DD isn't really good at picking out salient features of complicated scenes. Can you practice this outside of the reading context. Perhaps show her cartoons of a person almost ready to make a mistake and see if she can look at the scene and figure out the main point?

    Perhaps take her into a room of a friend's house and ask her what inferences she can draw about the people who live in the house based on what she sees? Eventually you can ask her to rank which of the inferences is the most important, and explain her reasoning.

    If you can do this politely enough - at resturants or parks you can practice people watching, and ask "If that family with the dog was in a movie, what would be happening in that movie?" and just practice noticing details, and making stuff up.

    My son was really good at getting the 'big picture' but almost 'detail blind' around age 8. This seems to have shifted as he's grown. Does you DD catch the main point of the whole book? Do you read and discuss books together? Are you able to make 'inside jokes' using references to books you have both enjoyed?

    I also wonder why she chooses pleasure reading below her school reading could be so many things, but I would get her eyes checked by a developmental optomitirist to see if her eyes are tracking in a mature way. Has she had her hearing checked lately?

    does any of this sound familiar?

    It sounds like her school situation is very good.

    Best Wishes,
    Coaching available, at

    #99515 - 04/14/11 09:47 AM Re: Poor Reading Comprehension (when alone) [Re: Goody]
    DeHe Offline

    Registered: 08/07/10
    Posts: 735
    Originally Posted By: Goody
    Thank you, master of none,

    She is missing key points and confusing key points.

    We have her read small amounts - a page or a few pages - after we have read them; then have her tell us what the key points are. She typically confuses the story and gets it wrong. We then ask her to re-read it and try again. Then, after being told to re-read and re-think, and knowing she missed on her first try, she will usually get it right the second time.

    is she possibly reading too fast? Lots of times gifted people/kids will read fast and skip words and your comprehension just fills them in, but if you skip too many your comprehension might fill it in wrong. The fact that she gets it right the second time suggests to me that she is being slower and more deliberate the 2nd time through. So what is she doing the first time? In addition to MonN's good suggestion of both reading it separately, you might also try having her read it aloud and having you read aloud separate sections and see where her comprehension is better. Also, what you describe as competitive, also could sound very perfectionist - she's going for easy in order to not get it wrong but its boring so she isn't paying enough attention to get it right. Alternatively, is it a lack of confidence or a desire for adult interaction. Hmm, what does your gut say?


    #99520 - 04/14/11 10:25 AM Re: Poor Reading Comprehension (when alone) [Re: Goody]
    JJsMom Offline

    Registered: 02/25/09
    Posts: 921
    Also, does she have any eye tracking issues? Your description of your daughter is very similar as to how I would describe myself. I always liked to read as a child, but I was never good at comprehension.

    My problem with reading comprehension is 1. an eye tracking issue, 2. I hate to read anything that *I* am not interested in, 3. I skip "boring" parts, 4. Anything with length either can't hold my attention (ADD) or is filled with too much "fluff". 5. I am not good with vocabulary, and I very often refused to look up meanings of words.

    I have always preferred below level books because of what I think my ADD and perfectionism. I knew I could conquer them quickly.

    You do not have to answer this if you do not want, as it may be too personal, but are you Chinese or Asian decent? If you are not, this may also be an issue for her, her self-esteem - even though I am sure she feels the love of her parents, kids are aware of their differences quite early in life. And while it may not have anything to do with her actual reading comprehension, it could help to explain her dependency and/or insecurities. I was a very insecure child, which easily played a roll in my choices/actions.

    #99526 - 04/14/11 11:52 AM Re: Poor Reading Comprehension (when alone) [Re: JJsMom]
    La Texican Offline

    Registered: 07/10/10
    Posts: 1777
    Loc: South Texas
    I've been reading up on teaching and lately I've been meditating on this, narration, dictation, and copywork as prescribed by the classical education homeschool method.  (I don't plan to homeschool, but I always intend to work with my kids on their education.)
    The second link is an online conversation from one instance between parents implementing the method outlined in the first link.  My reason for posting is to show you how some people are successfully separately teaching comprehension from written output.

    Originally Posted By: Quote fron 2nd link
    This is exactly why SWB, and other proponents of copywork and narration, suggest the parents write the narrations for their young kids. It divorces the mechanics of the process from the mental exercise of the process. If you read about SWB's philosophy, it's that for most young kids, trying to process the information, come up with something to say, AND pay attention to the mechanics of writing is too much.
    Here's a creative list of narration project ideas.
    Youth lives by personality, age lives by calculation. -- Aristotle on a calendar

    #99527 - 04/14/11 12:45 PM Re: Poor Reading Comprehension (when alone) [Re: Goody]
    Giftodd Offline

    Registered: 10/25/10
    Posts: 221
    Loc: Australia
    I second what people have been saying about reading too fast. This may or may not ring true for you, but something that we have found with dd5 is that if she is reading to far below her reading level she she misses easy words and can't tell you what happened. If she reads something at or just below, she reads fluently and with good comprehension. It was causing issues at school because the teacher didn't think she could read as well as she can.

    At first I was baffled by why this was happening and then I realised that she was probably no different to me - when I am reading a book to her that doesn't engage me I literally do not absorb a single word despite reading it more or less word for word (Rainbow Magic Fairies anyone? Fortunately she reads them to herself now, but I read a good 80+ of them before we got to that point. There's 40 hours of my life I wont get back!) I suspect my dd is the same, a little part of her brain skims over a book, does it's best to cobble together the words, while the rest is off doing other things. She has no idea what she's read and her brain hasn't had the same amount of practice putting words together, so when it's substituting words while she's not paying attention, it gets them wrong quite often. Give her a book she has to concentrate on and she's right as rain.

    My dd is also a kid who likes attention for every moment of the day - has done literally since birth. She wont read by herself during the day, but she will read to herself at night after we have read to her - I think she's prepared to trade some attention for getting to stay up and be part of the world for a bit longer. No idea if that would work for your dd, just what has worked for us smile

    "If children have interest, then education will follow" - Arthur C Clarke

    #99540 - 04/14/11 03:46 PM Re: Poor Reading Comprehension (when alone) [Re: Goody]
    mizzoumommy Offline

    Registered: 11/12/08
    Posts: 103
    I have not read all of the responses, yet. Forgive me if what I write echoes an other post.

    We homeschool using a Charlotte Mason approach to education. One of the things that we have done is toss out the idea of "what a child is supposed to understand" from a story/show/play, etc. We use a technique called "narration". Narration takes the place of worksheet and comprehension tests/quizzes. In a nutshell the child reads and then tells us about what he/she has read. This isn't a recounting or summary of events, but the child's thoughts on what he/she has seen, read, heard. Sometimes a child might get very little out of what he/she has read, others there's so much it can't be contained. Still other times, my children will seem to not "get" the story only to come back at a later time having internalized it and made connections far beyond what they have read with other topics/items that I would not have, originally, considered.

    The key to narration is to not pass judgement or steer the conversation. The idea is to find out what the child knows rather than always seeking what they *don't* know. It sounds easy, but in practice narration is more difficult than it seems. We use a variety of techniques for narration from having the child tell us verbally what he/she has read/heard/seen to writing a few sentences with or without having him/her draw a picture to accompany it, to creating dioramas, graphic novels, putting on a puppet show, acting out the story, etc.

    At first, although my children are voracious readers (my daughter refused to read for a while, but a recent eye exam found she needed reading glasses - we are in reading high gear, again! HURRAY!) when we first started narrations there was much confusion and we had to s-l-o-o-o-o-o-w way down. To a page at a time for a few days and then it clicked! My children realized I wasn't looking for a specific answer. This *freed* them to discover connections on their own.

    Narration is, also, a precursor to oral and written reports. It gets the child thinking of connections between different subjects. etc.

    I realize this post doesn't answer your question exactly, but it might provide you with some useful ideas. I second what another poster wrote about your daughter, possibly getting something different out of a story than what the teacher expects. When we first started using narrations, that was the case in my house; I thought the my children should understand a story in a specific way. Once I let go of that notion, I realized that they understood the stories very well and made connections I would not have considered, otherwise.

    Food for thought,


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