Reading Comprehension Deficiencies | 123Read&Write

Children's schemata, reading comprehension levels, and comprehension deficiencies.

Reading comprehension can be a tricky nut to crack. It's much easier for someone to say that a child needs to improve their comprehension skills; while achieving such a task is a whole other matter. It's much more difficult and in-depth to actually make improvements in a child's comprehesive level.

An adequate starting point, if a child's comprehension aptitude is in question, is to determine what exactly the child's difficulty may be. Reading comprehension difficulties arise from three distinct possibilities:

1. A lack of skill in decoding words/sounds.

2. Low academic skills in general.

3. Limited background information.

It is argued that all three of these deficiencies are linked to a child's schemata (Rude and Oehlkers, 1984). A child's schema correlates with the background information a child possesses before reading any written material. In "What is the Value of the New Interest in Reading Comprehension" (Durkin, 1980), it is offered that the comprehension of written text is more than taking information away from it; it's also important what background knowledge and information a child brings to the text. "Schemata are the idea units in which world knowledge is stored in memory and serve as the building blocks of the human information processing system" Rummelhart and Ortany, 1977). See the following visual example of a small schema for a guitar:

In all, schemata is always in a state of alteration with regards to reading comprehension ability. Many things must happen for a reader to comprehend what they're reading. One must accommodate, if needed, to acclimate to the new information being processed. This can occur by learning and adding new facts, adjusting what we already know to the text being read, and acquiring entirely new knowledge. 

Another issue which can cause a reader difficultly in comprehending text is poor word identification skills. Often, a child with low comprehension skills have weak decoding skills, as well (Golinkoff, 1975-76). According to Jay Samuels (1979), decoding must occur prior to comprehension. Samuels believes that a reader must focus on one aspect of reading, at a time (i.e. decoding first, comprehension second). When decoding skills are enhanced, then comprehension will be able to take place.

Regardless of reading level strengths and/or weaknesses, readers should utilize the schemata they already have. A fantastic strategy to implement is a DRTA (Directed Reading Thinking Activity). See below for a simplistic video on the DRTA method:


"How To Teach Reading: 3 Strategies." How To Teach Reading 3 Strategies. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 July 2013.

As shown, the DRTA is a useful academic tool for engaging a reader to connect with their own prior knowledge base. It works very well with both expository and narrative text. Just as reading, the DRTA is a process to work through allowing a child to read for confirmation and comprehension. 

It's important to remember that a child's decoding deficiencies must be assessed prior to turning your attention to comprehension. To fully comprehend, one must read for detail, make inferences when necessary, and utilize context to understand the meaning of the words.


Durkin, Dolores. What Is the Value of the New Interest in Reading Comprehension?Champaign, IL: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Center for the Study of Reading, 1980. Print.

Golinkoff, Roberta M. "A Comparison of Reading Comprehension Processes in Good and Poor Comprehenders." Reading Research Quarterly, 11 (1975-76), 623-59.

Rude, Robert T., and William J. Oehlkers. Helping Students with Reading Problems. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1984. Print.

Samuels, Jay. "How the mInd Works When Reading: Describing Elephants No One Has Ever Seen." In Theory and Practice of Early Reading, Vol. 1. Lauren B. Resnick and Phyllis A. Weaver, eds. Hillsdale, J.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1979.