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© Cambridge University Press 2011. In the early stages of learning to read, children must learn to map letters onto sounds so that they can decode and recognise words. However, the ultimate goal of reading is to understand the messages conveyed by text, and simply being able to read words and texts accurately is not sufficient for comprehension to occur. As children move through the school years, access to the curriculum will increasingly rely on reading comprehension. Children with poor reading comprehension skills will struggle to learn from what they read, placing them at a disadvantage that may have wide-ranging educational consequences. The aims of this chapter are to raise awareness of children’s reading comprehension difficulties, indicate some of the applied linguistic knowledge that can help primary teachers better understand them and emphasise the importance of monitoring and supporting reading comprehension skills in the classroom. In the first section, we review research on some of the factors that underpin reading comprehension, with particular reference to ‘poor comprehenders’, children who show impaired reading comprehension despite age-appropriate word recognition abilities. We then consider the educational implications of being a poor comprehender and present some recommendations for the assessment of reading comprehension abilities in school settings. Explaining children’s reading comprehension difficulties. The Simple View of Reading (Gough and Tunmer 1986) describes two potential barriers to reading success: difficulties with decoding and difficulties with language comprehension. Children’s skills can vary continuously across these two dimensions, resulting in four extreme reading profiles.

Original publication





Book title

Applied Linguistics and Primary School Teaching

Publication Date



154 - 164