Unlocking Reading Success: The Key to Helping Struggling Readers Better Comprehend Content

Recently published in AERA’s The Review of Educational Research, “The Active Ingredient in Reading Comprehension Strategy Intervention for Struggling Readers: A Bayesian Network Meta-analysis” is an examination into various reading comprehension strategies in improving reading skills for students in grades 3 to 12 who struggle with reading difficulties.

Conducted by Peng Peng, assistant professor in the Department of Special Education, and fellow researchers Wei Wang, Marissa J. Filderman, Wenxiu Zhang, and Lifeng Linwas, this comprehensive analysis evaluated 52 research different studies conducted throughout English-speaking countries. The researchers focused on commonly studied reading strategies such as identifying the main idea, making inferences, understanding text structure, summarizing, making predictions, self-monitoring and using graphic organizers.

The results of the study revealed several key findings:

  • Teaching more strategies did not necessarily lead to stronger improvements in reading comprehension.
  • No single reading comprehension strategy was found to be the most effective on its own.
  • When taught together as primary strategies, the combination of main idea, text structure, and retelling showed the most positive impact on reading comprehension.
  • The effectiveness of these strategies was only observed when combined with instruction on background knowledge.

These findings suggest that teaching reading comprehension strategies to students with reading difficulties should follow an ingredient-interaction model. In other words, there is no single strategy that works best for all students. Instead, different combinations of strategies may have different effects on reading comprehension. The combination of main idea, text structure, and retelling appears to optimize cognitive load during reading. Additionally, instruction on background knowledge should be integrated with strategy instruction to support the retrieval of knowledge and reduce the cognitive load associated with using these strategies.