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Why inference is key to reading comprehension

There is far more to reading than sounding out words, but psychologist Jane Oakhill argues that comprehension skills are often overlooked in schools. She tells Zofia Niemtus how teachers can spot pupils who are struggling and help them to piece together the puzzle of language

Girl with ice cream

Some literacy issues are easy to spot. If a child is having trouble with spelling, the evidence is right there on the page. Likewise, problems with word reading become apparent as soon as you ask a pupil to read aloud.

But difficulties with comprehension can be much tricker to identify. A child who struggles to comprehend text may be able to read a passage perfectly while understanding almost nothing about its meaning.

Studies suggest that, on average, in every class of 30, at least two or three young people will have difficulty understanding text. However, research and policy have so far ...

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