Reading Comprehension: Assisting Children with Learning Difficulties

By Davis, Melissa | Canadian Journal of Education, November 2014 | Go to article overview

Reading Comprehension: Assisting Children with Learning Difficulties


Davis, Melissa, Canadian Journal of Education


Reading Comprehension: Assisting Children with Learning Difficulties

by Gary Woolley

Brisbane, Australia: Springer, 2011, 259 pages.

ISBN: 978-94-007-1173-0

Reading Comprehension: Assisting Children with Learning Difficulties by Gary Woolley is a general consensus of the possibilities for reading comprehension instruction for students who struggle with reading, including those with reading disabilities and those learning a second language, with a focus on practices in the United States of America and Australia. While much of the focus of Woolley's book is on students with reading disabilities, or factors which may affect their reading, it is a common practice for second language learners to be identified as having reading difficulties, regardless of their reading ability in their native language (Kiefer, 2010). Woolley acknowledges this when he notes that the popular belief that "learning and reading difficulties are predominately a result of deficiencies within the reader is considered too narrow a focus and ignores the range and complexity of social, educational, cultural, and environmental factors that influence reading" (p. 8). Even within a single language, students may experience reading difficulties not because of their cognitive ability but because of their sociocultural or dialect differences.

Another common belief concerning reading is the simple view that decoding and listening comprehension proficiency will lead to reading comprehension (Hoover & Gough, 1990). Woolley acknowledges this simple view, but quickly rebuffs it, thoroughly explaining the complexities of reading, specifically comprehension. This complex view of reading, which acknowledges reader factors, is the current view held by student-centred and constructivist instructors.

In general, Woolley's book may be most appropriate as an introductory text for pre-service teachers, especially those teaching diverse students in the intermediate and secondary grades. The book begins with an introduction to the complex definitions of literacy and comprehension, with acknowledgements that both are multifaceted and not easily explained. Next, brain functioning and reading disabilities, with specific explanations given for dyslexia, autism, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. This encompasses the first quarter of the book. After this introductory information, Woolley discusses some basic decoding issues and how to address fluency and vocabulary concerns. After this, the focus shifts to higher-order comprehension skills with specific chapters devoted to visualization and inferences, with some strategies provided. From this explanation, Woolley discusses other factors that may impact reading comprehension, such as text structure, content, motivation, regulation, and engagement.

Finally, the last quarter of the book introduces practitioner factors, namely, how to provide instruction in reading strategies and how to incorporate these strategies in a framework, using activities before, during, and after reading, as well as visual and verbal stimulus. The book concludes with a discussion of tutoring types (such as parent and peer tutoring), emphasizing the importance of dialogue and cooperation, and using dynamic and multiple assessments when determining reading needs and progress. Throughout the book, Woolley makes an effort to explain how these strategies benefit students with reading disabilities, especially those with limited working memory capacity, and occasionally refers to student diversity. …

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