Reading comprehension means to understand what you read. It is the process that allows a reader to make connections between the words to make sense of it. Reading comprehension requires a set of skills that are interactive and strategic such that readers can analyze and internalize what they read.


Reading comprehension begins before children can read for themselves; when someone reads to them, they listen to the words and look at the pictures in the book. This is the first step of associating what is written and drawn on the page with what they hear and what ideas and concepts are being represented; it is when readers take their first steps towards decoding words and understanding vocabulary in isolation. Once they reach proficiency in these areas, they can use reading comprehension strategies to make sense of a complete text.


Students learn reading comprehension strategies via instruction that includes modeling, practice, and feedback. Key comprehension strategies include previewing, predicting, identifying main ideas, summarization, questioning, inferring, and visualizing. Here is more information about these strategies.



Previewing is an important reading comprehension strategy. It is a way for readers to connect their existing knowledge to new information. They access what they already know about the topic when they preview text, which helps them to have an idea of what the text will convey. Using prior knowledge provides a kind of framework upon which readers can add any new information or ideas they discover while reading.



Readers can also use the strategy of prediction to better comprehend a text. Predicting what might be described in what they are about to read helps readers to revise their expectations as they gain more information during reading. Actively predicting while reading keeps them connected to the text, so they can reflect on it and revise their predictions.


Identifying the Main Idea and Summarization

The two-pronged reading comprehension strategy of identifying the main idea and summarizing requires that readers determine the purpose of a text. The goal is for readers to uncover what is most important throughout the text and then to express it in their own words.



Questioning is another key element of the process of reading comprehension. Asking and answering questions about a text before, during, and after reading allows readers to engage the text and interact with it so they can achieve a greater depth of meaning to pad their overall comprehension. Questioning as they read helps readers to focus on meaning throughout a text.


Making Inferences

Inferring is another strategy readers can use to gain greater comprehension about what they read. It involves using what is described in the text in combination with personal experiences as clues for helping readers uncover what is not stated explicitly. Making inferences is important because it helps readers interpret what they read and get a more well-rounded grasp of the text so it is memorable on a personal level.



Visualizing while reading helps readers have better recall of information, which is an essential facet of reading comprehension. Readers use illustrations present in the text, or they create their own mental images as they read to help them visualize what is described. Sketching or drawing what is described in a text can extend the usefulness of this reading comprehension strategy for readers.


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Written by Erika Mehlhaff