Reading Comprehension of Students

The main purpose for reading is comprehension. Students who reach high school level are expected to have developed their reading comprehension skills. High school students are asked to comprehend, analyze, synthesize and evaluate large amounts of information.

Most of the teachers of English observe in their classes that whenever the lesson is on reading, some of the students could hardly answer simple questions such as noting details which concern on the literal questions that can be found in the text and are directly stated. Most of them could not even make inferences about things not directly stated in the text. Others have difficulty recalling previous knowledge which they can make use to increase their reading comprehension.

Reading Comprehension is defined as the level of understanding of a text or message. This understanding comes from the interaction between the words that are written and how they trigger knowledge outside the text or message (Rayner, Foorman, Perfitti, Pesetsky & Seidenberg, 2001).  Reading comprehension is a skill that can be strengthened and improved through more reading practice. Pressley (2003), as cited by Pardo (2004), stated that increasing vocabulary, extensive reading and critical reading are some of the practices that can be used to strengthen and refine the person’s ability to comprehend any text. However, reading comprehension fails for a number of reasons. One of the reasons is the lack of knowledge base. This deals on how much knowledge a reader has about the subject he or she is reading. When the reader is more familiar with the happenings in the text because they likely are similar in many ways to his or her own life experiences then he or she can easily generate the necessary inferences from the text.

Reading Comprehension according to Basaraba (2013) is a complex process that requires different building-block skills. One model of reading comprehension proposes that understanding what we read is really the result of three levels of skills: literal comprehension, inferential comprehension and evaluative comprehension.

Reading is the true backbone of most learning. Everything starts with the written word — whether it’s math, science or even home economics. As students go up the educational ladder, more reading is usually required as subjects become more dense and challenging. (Philippine Star, 2010).

The DepEd reports that there has been a 21.36 percent increase in NAT results from 2006 to 2009. The 2009 NAT revealed a rise in Mean Percentage Score (MPS) of only 66.33 percent from 54.66 percent in 2006, which equates to an improvement of 11.67 percent. The percentage gains were in all subject areas and pointed to a steady improvement in the primary education of the country’s public school system.

In a 2007 interview, Dr. Yolanda Quijano, then head of the DepEd’s Bureau of Elementary Education, attributed “reading problems as the main culprit for the poor performance of some students in the NAT.” Her observation is indeed alarming. Hence, if a student’s reading comprehension is poor, chances are his or her performance in other subjects will be compromised (Philippine Star, 2010).

One of the best ways to increase reading comprehension among students is the question-answer technique where it enables students to prepare for reading and to understand while reading (Hendricks, et al., 1996).  Thus, questioning technique can also be supported through the use of higher order thinking skills (HOTS) to increase reading comprehension among students.

Department of Education Secretary Br. Armin A. Luistro (2012) said that it is important to assess the reading capability of students because reading is the foundation of all academic learning. He added that if a pupil fails to master basic reading skills at the outset, it will be a constant struggle for them to get through other disciplines successfully, thus depriving them of the chance to become literate and productive individuals.

Tongson, Jr. (2005) as cited by Nangleg (2007) attests to the deterioration of reading skills of the pupils in the country when the Every Child a Reader Program (ECARP) has been implemented and the Bureau of Elementary Education (BEE) supports this program by developing the Philippine Informal Reading Inventory (Phil-IRI).

Phil-IRI is an assessment tool that evaluates the reading proficiency level of elementary school pupils. It is the first validated instrument that intends to measure the pupils’ reading comprehension level. The pupil’s word recognition and comprehension ability as well as his/her reading speed are informally assessed quantitatively and qualitatively through stories and passages. (http://www.depedMuntinlupa.com/images/gallery/22.pdf).

Snow, Burns. & Griffin (1998) suggested three initiatives to address the educational needs of children beyond grade three. One is putting what we now know about improving reading comprehension into practice. Next is building the knowledge base for improving reading comprehension. Another is developing policies to support improvements in practice and in research. According to the authors, initiatives to improve practice operate most effectively through teacher education and professional development programs. With regard to improving the knowledge base in reading comprehension, they believe that a child who builds up a strong general knowledge base in many different subjects will have better reading ability than a child who doesn’t. Indeed, students need to continue to read a lot, and to be guided to read books of an appropriate level, so that they have opportunities to practice reading skills, to learn new vocabulary items, and to be exposed to a variety of text.

About Glenn Suarez

Glenn T. Suarez, a female high school teacher at Urdaneta City National High School, Urdaneta City Pangasinan. She teaches English and Special Program in the Arts, Theater Arts.