Many of the skills necessary for reading comprehension begin to develop during the preschool years and earlier. Early skills that support reading comprehension involve many of the same oral language and listening comprehension skills that young children acquire through interactions with parents and peers at home, during play, in preschool settings, and in the community. During preschool, skills that contribute to the development of language skills lay the groundwork for reading comprehension once the child acquires the ability to read or decode words. Early skills that create a foundation for later reading comprehension include:
There are many opportunities for preschoolers to learn these skills, both at home and in school programs. For instance:
Like all children, preschoolers with Spina Bifida benefit greatly from being read to by their parents and teachers. When reading to a preschool child, it is important to talk about the stories and ask questions about it. Stopping to discuss the story or ask questions is a good way to show the child how to think about what he or she is hearing. It also provides a model for how to be an "active" reader. For instance, pause occasionally while reading and have the child "fill in" missing details or make predictions about what will happen next. However, it is also important to not disrupt the flow of the story too often (which can interfere with comprehension and interest). Rereading short parts of the text to maintain flow and coherence can be helpful.
Children with Spina Bifida are often successful in developing single-word reading skills during early elementary school. However, children with Spina Bifida often have more difficulty understanding what they are reading (i.e., reading comprehension). Because of this, early screening of listening comprehension and reading comprehension are recommended for children with Spina Bifida, particularly around second or third grade.
If mild reading comprehension problems are found, accommodations and interventions for reading comprehension problems should be provided by the teacher in the classroom and used by the parents at home. Teachers should help parents learn reading comprehension approaches they can use with their children.
While some reading comprehension problems can be addressed in the classroom setting, many youth with Spina Bifida have difficulties that require special intervention strategies. Special intervention strategies used by the school should be "evidence-based" approaches. Evidence based approaches are techniques that have been shown to work with children with similar learning disabilities.
An important goal of the interventions should be to make the youth with Spina Bifida an "active reader," rather than letting the youth simply read "on cruise control." It is important to teach the youth to "slow down" while reading, and learn how to "think about reading." One useful way of doing this is to teach and use clear comprehension strategies that can be used before, during, and after reading.
There are now many available intervention curriculums which target reading comprehension, and you can ask your child's teacher or school about them. These types of learning materials insert comprehension questions into the story, which cues the child to answer comprehension questions as he or she reads.
The goal of reading comprehension intervention with children with Spina Bifida should be to gradually shift the responsibility for "active reading" from the teacher/parent to the student (e.g., the teacher takes an "I do, we do, you do" approach).
As children sometimes grow weary of re-reading stories or texts, it may be helpful to get a "text-to-speech" program which can "read" the information to the child several additional times after he or she has read it on their own.
Curriculum and Internet resources:
Special thanks to Dr. Marcia Barnes for her assistance with this tipsheet.
Originally featured on Spina Bifida Association (sbaa.org) and reprinted with permission. Copyright ? 2012 Meredith Corporation.