Imagine Better Reading Comprehension

Most reading experts agree on one thing: In order to comprehend what they read, students must have strong decoding skills and adequate oral vocabulary. In other words, a child must be able to accurately decode every word on the page, and know what each of the words mean.


Unfortunately, many students who can decode well and understand words still have weak comprehension. What is the missing piece for these students?


Clinical research over the last thirty years indicates there is a separate comprehension weakness that is rarely identified. This weakness often undermines the reading process. It is a weakness, based in the sensory system, in creating an imaged gestalt or “whole.”


Students may have difficulty creating mental images for language. This weakness causes individuals to get only “parts” of information they read or hear, but not the whole.


Nanci Bell first became aware of the connection that underlies comprehension while she was teaching students struggling with literacy, many of whom had been previously diagnosed as dyslexic. Nanci has described that at the time, she was unaware of a separate comprehension dysfunction. Like many others, she thought difficulty with reading comprehension was caused by weak decoding and weak oral vocabulary.


In the following excerpt, from Visualizing and Verbalizing, Nanci Bell describes the incident that sparked her passion to change learning for students struggling with weak comprehension.

Needing a break in the lesson from spelling word after word, I decide to have Allan, [a college student majoring in architecture], read and give me a verbal summary.  Handing him a college level skill book, I ask him to read aloud so I can be certain he is decoding accurately.


He accurately reads the page of material, and I take the book from him, saying, “Good job.  Tell me what you read.”


Allan gives me the very complete summary, beginning with the main idea and then including all the details.  To my amazement, he infers, concludes, predicts, and evaluates the material.  He is confident and involved in the activity – a much different Allan than the one that struggles with spelling.


I stare at him, saying, “That was really an incredible summary.  How are you able to do that?”


Looking at me, surprised and now shy, Allan replies, “I don’t know.”


Realizing that Allan seems embarrassed and unsure of himself because of my question, I reassure him.  “That really was good.  You have very good reading comprehension.  How did you do that?  If I know what you do to remember what you read, perhaps I can teach others to do it.”


Thoughtful, Allan replies, “I don’t know.”  Then, after a pause, he says, “I make movies when I read.”


A little surprised, I ask, “What do you mean, you make movies when you read?”


“I don’t know.  I just see movies in my head when I read.  The words turn into pictures and I just remember the pictures, the images.  Don’t you do that?”


Thinking about the books I’ve read, I finally answer, “Yes.  I do.  I picture what I read.  I guess I’ve just not thought about it.”


“Do other people do that, too?”


“I don’t know … but I’ll find out …”


The statement “I make movies when I read” prompted my twenty-five-year-odyssey exploring the relationship between imagery and language.  Today, twenty years after first writing Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking, I am still passionate about the importance of imagery to comprehension and cognition. (Bell, 2007, pp. 4-8)

Over the past 30 years more than 40,000 students have been taught how to learn to their potential at Lindamood-Bell. While some of our students have a previous diagnosis that affects learning, others seek our help to enhance their skills or to just make learning easier—and we make a difference for each one of them.


The Visualizing and Verbalizing program develops concept imagery—the ability to create an imagined or imaged gestalt from language—as a basis for comprehension and higher order thinking. The development of concept imagery improves reading and listening comprehension, memory, oral vocabulary, critical thinking, and writing.


A mom describes how Visualizing and Verbalizing improved her daughter’s reading comprehension:



If you have concerns about your child’s language comprehension ability, get in touch with our learning center to get started 800-300-1818.


Come to our Open House!

All locations are hosting a DREAM BIG for Learning Open House in Spring of 2017. You’re Invited!

We’d love to show you how we have been creating the Magic of Learning for over 30 years! Find your Open House HERE.



  1. My husband is a very slow reader and a poor (horrible) speller. However, he is rated on the MENSA scale. I wonder if this might help him. Also, my daughter in law is a “whole word reader” but has trouble enjoying a book due to lack of comprehension. I’d like to know more. Thank you

    1. Thank you for your comment, Susan. Slow reading and poor spelling can be signs of weak symbol imagery—the ability to create mental imagery for sounds and letters within words. Check out this article about symbol imagery. At our learning centers(in person and online) we work with students of all ages and backgrounds and look forward to speaking with you 800-300-1818.

  2. OMGoodness this is awesome. My son, now 34, struggled all through school & was diagnosed with auditory processing & sequencing wesknesses. I can’t wait to ask him if he sees movies when he reads. I was stunned when reading this because I see words spelled correctly in my mind when attempting to spell difficult words. I was fascinated by this article also because I was a high school Business Teacher for 40 years.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Cheverne! Individuals may have difficulty comprehending language, as described in this article, due to poor concept imagery, i.e. they are not seeing movies in their mind.
      Others may have difficulty with rapidly perceiving sounds in words and are slow to self-correct their reading errors, resulting in slow or labored decoding. This difficulty is weak symbol imagery—the ability to create mental imagery for sounds and letters within words. From your description, it sounds like you are using strong symbol imagery when you spell a difficult word!

  3. I can not say enough about Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes. 25 years ago my son was dx’d as LD, ADHD, and dyslexic. He could not read at all. I had an outside school advocate who recommended, I take him out of school and go live in a motel to get Lindamood-Bell help for him. I waited until the school year was over and we were able to take him daily for 4 weeks to Boston, 60 miles away, to a LmB clinic. His dad bribed him with Dunkin Donuts every morning, he had 4 one hour personal sessions, then I, or one set or the other of grandparents, would pick him up, get pizza every day.

    When he started 3rd grade the teachers were expecting a nonreader, and he attended special ed reading classes. He had gone from not knowing which way to hold a non-picture book, to reading at a fifth grade level, and was able to decode some words at an 8th to 12th grade level. Lindamood-Bell gave him the tools to read and to grow as he matured. His special ed teacher was so amazed at his ability, she went to learn the Lindamood-Bell techniques and the got our whole school system to get involved Lindamood-Bell learning processes.

    I never expected my son to realize how life changing his 4 weeks going to Boston to be, but at the begining of school he was thrilled to be doing better than most of his classmates……he said “Thank you mom, for making me go to Lindamood” It overflowed my heart and brought me to tears.

    1. Lee, Thank you so much for sharing your family’s story. We are honored to have been a part of your son’s life. We will pass your message on to our founder, Nanci. She will be thrilled to know we made a difference for your child. Thank you!


Fields below are required. Your email address will not be published.

Connect with us

Follow us for the latest news, stories, and more!

Chat Connect
Loading ...

Get In Touch

Tell us about yourself, and we will be in touch shortly.

* required

Request an Info Pack

Please fill out the form to receive your info pack.

* required

Receive Exclusive Updates

* required

Schedule an Evaluation

Please fill out the form and we will be in touch to schedule an evaluation.

* required

Let's be Social

Chat with a Live Representative