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Types of Reading Comprehension Problems in Children

By Melody Causewell ; Updated September 26, 2017
Reading comprehension problems can be dealt with to improve learning.

Reading comprehension drives much of school based learning, making problems in this area difficult for parents and children alike. Intervention must occur in order to provide children with the best possible chance of coping effectively with these issues. Reading comprehension problems must be identified in order to treat them appropriately.

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Decoding Issues

Individuals use decoding when they see pieces of information, such as letters or words, to interpret meaning, in this case in the form of reading comprehension. According to PBS sponsored Reading Rockets, children with issues in decoding may have trouble reading words they have never seen before, may get stuck on words consistently, or may have trouble with comprehension because so much time is being spent on sounding out individual words in a passage. Children may appear to not be paying attention or seem to gloss over details as they try to decipher the words themselves.


Dyslexia is a specific condition that deals with deficits in decoding. According to a 2008 study by the National Institute of Health, Dyslexia is a neurological condition that may show up as deficits in learning letters or the basic sounds of language, spelling problems and trouble with reading comprehension. According to WebMD, mixing up the letters of small words, reversing letters or words--such as ton and not-- or letter inversions--such as w for m-- are also common. These alterations in reading text can cause issues, including confusion about the meanings of words or sentences, which make reading comprehension difficult without intervention.

Working Memory Deficits

According to the National Institute of Health, short term or working memory is the system in the brain that stores and changes information into useable pieces, which is necessary to learn, understand language, reason effectively and for reading comprehension. Signs of working memory problems may include things like needing to reread information since it was not processed and retained the first time. According to a paper published by the Cardiff University School of Psychology, behavioral issues may also be seen in those who do not comprehend material, due to frustration or inability to focus on the material at hand. Research in the journal "Learning and Individual Differences' from 2008 indicates that activities designed to enhance working memory function may increase reading comprehension as well.

Attention Deficit Disorders

For some children, trouble with reading comprehension may be caused by difficulty concentrating during the reading itself. This inability to concentrate may be caused by Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). According to WebMD, children who have ADD or ADHD may show consistent inattention, impulsive behaviors, or hyperactive traits that are not expected of children their age. According to a 2011 study in the "New Horizons for Learning Journal," those with ADD or ADHD show difficulties with reading comprehension even if they do well with reading the words themselves. In 2007 research, the "Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry" suggested that this problem is possibly related to deficits in activation in the parts of the brain that control working memory functions.

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About the Author

Melody Causewell has been a writer in the mental health field since 2001. She written training manuals and clinical programs for mental health organizations. She has published feature articles "Leaven" magazine and has been published in "Natural Awakenings." She has a degree in psychology, a Masters degree in social work and is a La Leche League leader.

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