In the following interview, Zena Smith, Founder, and CEO of MASTER’s Plus Tutoring shares her knowledge and vast experience on the key role that reading comprehension plays in education.
Q – How does reading comprehension connect to success?
Zena Smith: “Well, reading comprehension connects to everything. If a student isn’t able to keep up with increasing textual complexity as he moves through school, that cuts across all subjects. It is critical that all students not only read fluently but also understand, analyze and think critically about what they’re reading. In a science textbook, if you cannot comprehend the description of an experiment or the relationship between the results of that experiment and what it might imply for future experiments, you can miss the entire point. And of course, in math, algebra or word problems require you to understand what you read in order to solve the problems. Reading comprehension is foundational to academic achievement, no matter what age the student.”
Q – Won’t my elementary school child just get better at reading as she progresses grade-by-grade? Why would she need reading comprehension tutoring?
Zena Smith: “The parents are the best monitors of when their child is falling behind. Look at the critical markers: For four-year-olds, it is sight words like I, am and the and phonics; kindergarteners are expected to be able to read simple sentences; and, by second grade, you should be able to read a text, extract information and understand what you just read. The educational mile markers have been pushed down quite a bit from when we went to school, and the Common Core is very rigorous, as well. So, in a state like Illinois, where kindergarten is not yet mandatory, these higher standards can be highly disadvantageous for children who don’t get offered kindergarten–Sometimes your zip code can determine your educational outcome, so reading comprehension tutoring can help close a gap like that from a very young age. “
Q – My child is going into high school now, but he was on the honor roll in middle school, and he learned to read in kindergarten. Why is he starting to struggle with school now?
Zena Smith: “One thing we see with high schoolers all the time, particularly with the boys, is that they have an amazing aptitude to just remember a lot of facts and a lot of information. So, what they tend to do is rely heavily on that, but maybe they never really learned to infer beyond the text, to draw conclusions, or to compare and contrast what they’ve read with other information known or presented. But, starting in ninth grade, the sheer volume of information has grown so much, you’re expected to read much faster, the vocabulary is more complex, and you’re still expected to digest, unpack, and deeply comprehend those more challenging texts. Here at MASTER’s Plus, we tutor reading skills and strategies based on our own diagnostic tests, working with students one-on-one, and we have had great success in bringing them to grade level and above in a reasonable period.”