Do you find that your child or teenager fails to retain information in the book or textbook chapter? Do you hear them say “I can’t remember what was said” a lot? If so, your child could have an issue with understanding or reading comprehension. Parents are usually puzzled. They know that the child can read! And they hear them do that out loud all the time. The problem arises when the kid cannot answer any comprehension questions or retell the plot of the book.
Why does that happen?
The child fails to comprehend the text and tries very hard to remember the exact words on the page. Very quickly, the brain gets overwhelmed, reaches capacity and stops taking in any new words. The child’s brain can only hold about seven words at a time. Unless they process or understand these words, the brain has no extra “space”. As a result, the part of the brain responsible for comprehension completely shuts off.
In the meantime, the left part of the brain is staying active. It keeps going on automatic “reading” the words on the page. This “reading” in nothing but word calling. Word calling is a left-brain auditory task that is easy to do, and it doesn’t require comprehension. Just like anyone can start reading German text if they know German alphabet and German phonics.
If you just read that: Lassen Sie mich in Ruhe!; it doesn’t mean you comprehend it. I entertain my friends by reading German newspapers out loud. The sound of German words and language melody makes me friends laugh very hard. My dirty secret: I have no idea what I am reading, but my pronunciation is on point! I am were calling out the words.
For kids to remember information they read, they need to have a clear understanding of it first.
I find that a lot of my clients who are bright and hardworking kids (fifth through eighth graders) were experiencing this particular issue. They were not proficient at converting the words they were reading into a cartoon or a movie. They merely sounded out the words most of the time. Instead, I’d like them to learn how to convert words into a seamless flow of images and not just sounds.
I found that “movie making” is a skill that can be developed in them, especially in kids that are prone to be visual thinkers.
Whenever they read for recreation or information, they must change the words into images in their mind. The more these images involve the senses (sight, sound, smell, feel), the greater will be the comprehension and retention of the text.
Another important thing to keep in mind is shifts in time. As the author takes the reader through the plot, timeframes move around a lot. When your child is creating a movie in his mind, he can place events accordingly on the timeline. Which event happened first?
It’s very helpful if you do it several times alongside with them. Take a piece of paper and a pencil and draw your movie as you describe it in your own words. Draw a timeline as well, if time shifts around a lot. It will help your child realize that comprehension doesn’t magically arrive, and they have to work hard to construct it in their mind’s eye.