Remember the first time you saw a movie that was based on a book that you loved- how excited you were to see that the main character looked and behaved just as you had imagined? Or perhaps the scenes with important characters and setting were nothing like you had pictured them. Now imagine if, when reading that treasured book, you had never come up with any pictures at all. In fact, it wasn’t even a treasured book because enjoying, or even remembering or understanding the words on a page was something you’d never experienced. This is a peek into the world of a person who struggles with reading comprehension.
People who struggle with reading comprehension are, by no means, particularly poor readers. In fact, their reading fluency is often quite strong. To hear them read aloud, you would never guess that, by the time they have finished the story, they would not really be able to tell you what the piece was about. Over time, some readers with weak reading comprehension develop coping mechanisms. They look at pictures. They pick out certain words that seem as though they might be relevant, perhaps based on the title of the piece or in answer to a specific question about the story. They may read and reread the chapter in preparation for a test, in order to memorize information; however, the understanding that someone with good language imagery experiences eludes them because there are no images for the words. These readers do not picture the cold, dark, deserted parking lot or the moon that only provides a sliver of illumination against the puddles of melting snow. They will not be upset that the actress cast as the heroine of the book that they just read in class is clearly much younger than she should be, or doesn’t have the curly red hair that is such an important aspect of her character in the book. This is because, when reading these stories, they are reading each and every word on the page as if it was the only word on the page. There is not context. The words did not come together to form a whole story.
Working with readers to develop the ability to create mental images for words, phrases, whole thoughts and complex ideas is the most effective way of strengthening this area of their reading. Programs, such as Nanci Bell’s Visualizing and Verbalizing® and the Lighthouse Reading Solution™ are designed specifically to help struggling learners develop language imagery. Through an intensive step-by-step process, students learn to create images for words, sentences, paragraphs, and eventually whole pages of written information. They also apply this process to expressive language, learning to create clear mental images for others when speaking or writing.
Through this process, students who struggle with reading comprehension or written expression, children with language disorders, second language learners, and students who are ready to advance to higher levels complexity in their reading or writing can increase their language comprehension and ability to express themselves!
If your child struggles in this area, our Can You Imagine? course can provide the necessary instruction to overcome these challenges.