When assessing learners with learning difficulties, it is increasingly found that many of these learners struggle with reading comprehension. Many of them may read fluently or are so-called “mechanical readers”, but do not grasp the content of the reading text. Others concentrate so hard on pronouncing every word correctly that they forget what the story is about. This also leads to a slow reading speed.
Reading comprehension is a crucial component of academic achievement. Learners need to understand what they are reading and what they are studying to adequately prepare for a reading comprehension test or an examination. The ability to visualise plays an extremely important role in learner’s academic achievement.
Visualising the story
What does visualising mean and how does it link to reading comprehension? Visualising is the ability to form a picture – or a mental image – in our heads when we hear or read a story. When a young child hears stories from an early age, she forms a picture in her mind of what is being read. Parents reading to their children from an early age help their children develop the ability to create a picture in their minds.
Research shows a growing concern about young children’s exposure to screens (televisions, iPads and computer or console games, etc.). The reason being that they get immediate visual input without using their imagination to develop the mental images themselves. Reading to children from a very young age develops the following:
- observation skills,
- independent thinking,
- problem-solving skills, and
- a love for reading.
Understanding the text
Visualising the story strengthens reading comprehension skills as it leads to a greater understanding of the text. If a learner is unable to visualise or form a mental picture of what he is reading or studying, the learner will study the content in a parrot-fashion. Studying in this manner often leads to the learner hitting a blank in examinations as he cannot recall what he had studied. Effective studying, as well as understanding the content being studied, stems from the ability to form a mental picture or image.
Readers who can visualise what they are reading, become more involved with the text. This again leads to a more meaningful reading experience, which also promotes continued reading. All is not lost, however. Parents should control their young children’s exposure to screens and spend more time on reading activities. The skill to visualise can be practised, which in turn may enhance a better understanding of the lesson material by learners struggling with poor reading comprehension.