Education Letter to the Editor

‘Reading Aloud'—And Not Necessarily Comprehending

January 19, 2010 1 min read

To the Editor:

Regarding “Reading Aloud to Teens Gains Favor” (Jan. 6, 2010):

When I would occasionally have my 10th grade world-history students read aloud, I found that nearly every one could read and decode words. Comprehending what was being read was another matter altogether.

After we read a passage together, I would ask my class to close their books, and then would randomly select students to explain what they or another student had just read. I found that they could remember a few words, but frequently could not grasp main points.

When students do not understand what they are reading, the task of putting information into a larger context is impossible. Imagine reading a foreign language that you don’t know, one that uses the same alphabet as English. You can perhaps pronounce the words, but they don’t mean anything.

Skilled readers often automatically relate what they are reading to what they already know. A student’s development of reading comprehension depends, therefore, upon his or her development of a context for reading, and that in turn enables the student to critically analyze material.

Addressing the first of the three R’s requires teachers to consider the three C’s: comprehension, contextualization, and critical analysis.

Patrick Mattimore

Beijing, China

A version of this article appeared in the January 20, 2010 edition of Education Week as ‘Reading Aloud'—And Not Necessarily Comprehending