Reading Comprehension

5 Pillars of Reading:

1. Phonemic Awareness

2. Phonics

3. Vocabulary

4. Fluency

5. Comprehension

What areas can SLPs directly provide interventions for?

1. Phonemic awareness

2. Vocabulary

3. Comprehension

What is the link between oral language and written language?

1. Spoken language is the foundation for reading and writing development

2. Spoken language and written language build upon the other

3. Children with deficits in one area often have deficits in the other

4. Instruction in one area can result in growth in the other

*Taken from ASHA’s Position Statement

What is the goal of reading?


Why is comprehension so important?

To my mind, it’s because reading fulfills two fundamental purposes.The first is functional and informational. We need to be able to read safety signs, food labels, prescriptions, forms, and the like. And for each, we need to know what information is being conveyed. It’s often a matter of safety! The second is fun and entertainment! We read to learn more about our favorite band, keep up with the TV show we’re watching, and, of course, books, comics, and magazines that we enjoy. It’s not safety at this point – but you can’t really enjoy what you don’t understand!

How does reading happen?

According to research by Bunce, Gillespie, and Wegner in 2011… 


Reading is a combination of Language Comprehension and Word Recognition. 

Language Comprehension


Background knowledge


Language structures

Verbal reasoning

Literacy Knowledge

Word Recognition

Phonemic Awareness


Sight word recognition


Good comprehension; poor word recognition

Specific Comprehension Deficits

Poor comprehension; good word recognition

Language Learning Disabilities

Poor comprehension; poor word recognition

Intervention Techniques

Get your readers thinking about their reading. Graphic organizers are a great tool for this! Using organizers such as KWL are just one way to activate prior knowledge and get readers attentive and thinking. Looking at the cover of the book, thinking about the title, and making predictions about what’s going to happen are ideal beginnings to any reading task!

you might need to pre-teach some very specific concepts. It’s important that we read the text first, if possible! This will allow us to hit on the semantic concepts present and ensure that students understand both the vocabulary and any figurative language in the text. You might want to focus specifically on vocabulary for a time both before and after reading the target text. For example, pulling out key words and breaking them down into their morphological components, going through multiple meanings, and using words across a variety of contexts, such as with the Expanding Expression Tool, will help your student use new semantic information both within the text being targeted and generalize vocabulary to other settings.

Another pre-reading strategy worth giving a go, especially with younger students working on picture books, is visualization. Similar to predictions, students will look at pictures of what is going to happen before reading the text itself. Encouraging students to keep a mental image while they’re reading will given them something to go back to when completing tasks at the end. But, visualization can also be used for texts without pictures! Read sentences while describing what you “see” in your mind, then encourage students to do the same! These images can still be referred back to later.

Once you’re reading, it’s important to keep the type of text you’re reading in mind. Based on whether it’s a narrative text or expository text, you can use a structure to guide students through it. For example, a narrative text can be structured around the Story Elements. During reading, students will have a framework of what to look and listen for (characters, settings, etc…). For expository texts, there are more options, but the SLP can provide the framework (cause and effect, definition/example, problem/solution, etc…) to help students identify key information during reading.

Before, during and after reading, it’s time to not only ask questions of the students but also encourage the student to ask questions of their own! Who, what, where, and when questions are helpful, but it’s even more helpful to have students thinking about why and how things happened. Ask students to explain things, but also encourage them to question the text on their own.

As students are reading, encourage them to notice where their reading has broken down. Using familiar language like “stop” and “u-turn,” students should re-read what they don’t understand. Using strategies that they’ve been working on, such as looking back to prior knowledge, vocabulary training, visualizations, and their graphic organizers, students should slow down and work to understand before moving on. SLPs role is to scaffold them through that understanding by asking questions and making connections.

While reading, students should be comparing what they read to what they thought they might read. It’s important for them to notice whether their predictions and inferences are correct as the facts are revealed! Notes should be made while they’re reading.

After reading, students should be asked to summarize or retell what they’ve learned. Their graphic organizers and visualizations can serve as valuable aids to identifying key details and organizing their thoughts.

Reading comprehension interventions should be:

1. Purposeful: go beyond giving the student a text and asking them questions afterwards

2. Active: both SLP and student should be actively engaged before, during, and after reading

3. Flexible: scaffolding should increase and decrease as students mature as readers and strategies should be implemented and adjusted to meet individual needs


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