Given the fact that Chapter Eleven is over forty pages long, it is safe to surmise that comprehension is one of the most important factors in reading. According to Gunning, comprehension requires at least five basic processing abilities: activating schema, “understanding key details at a literal level, integrating text across sentences and paragraphs, making inferences, and monitoring for meaning” (353). What good is it to decode the words in front of you, if you don’t understand a word you just read? Reading without comprehension is like looking at these words: blahnina tooook, rick-rick-rowilow and pfft-haha, and being able to decode them. Kudos to you if you can (and extra nerd points if you recognized the language as Simlish), but it doesn’t do you any good in the long run. You still don’t understand what concept is being explained, what story is being told, or what emotion is being expressed. Fortunately, Gunning has a plethora of techniques we educators can implement to teach comprehension to struggling and emergent readers. While I could summarize the entire chapter (which would show my ability to comprehend, as, according to page 362, summarization is “the most effective comprehension strategy of all”), I will merely focus on a reoccurring theme that I noticed running throughout the chapter.
Once again, Gunning spends portions of his chapter discussing the importance of students’ self-confidence. At the very beginning of the chapter, before listing a single technique, Gunning notes that children need to believe in the efficacy of themselves and in the efficacy of the strategies being taught in order for any strategy to actually work (356). During his explanation of metacognition, Gunning points out that a student who has a poor self-concept may not try very hard to master comprehension skills because he honestly believes he can’t learn them (372). One way to combat this negative self-talk is for the teachers to show a struggling reader that sometimes even they struggle with understanding what they read. If a child realizes that reading is not always effortless and automatic even for proficient readers, it might give him/her or the incentive to use the same reading strategies as the expert readers (374).
There are several more mentions of self-esteem in the chapter, which leads me to believe that not only are comprehension skills imperative for developing good reading, but self-efficacy is the only way to truly master these skills.
Thomas G. Gunning, Assessing and Correcting: Reading and Writing Difficulties, rev. ed. (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2010), 352-398.