Reading comprehension means understanding and deriving meaning from what you have read. It is the ability to process text, understand its meaning, and to integrate with what the reader already knows. Using a variety of strategies can help you improve your comprehension and make reading more interesting and more fun.

Read for a Reason

To get the greatest benefit from your reading, establish a purpose for reading. In school, you have many reasons for reading, such as:

  • to learn and understand new information.
  • to find specific information.
  • to review before a test.
  • to complete an assignment.
  • to prepare (research) before you write.

As your reading skills improve, you will notice that you apply different strategies to fit the different purposes for reading. For example, if you are reading for entertainment, you might read quickly, but if you read to gather information or follow directions, you might read more slowly, take notes, construct a graphic organizer, or reread sections of text.

Draw on Personal Background

Drawing on personal background may also be called activating prior knowl- edge. Before you start reading a text, ask yourself questions like these:

  • What have I heard or read about this topic?
  • Do I have any personal experience relating to this topic?

Using a K-W-L Chart

A K-W-L chart is a good device for organizing information you gather before, during, and after reading. In the first column, list what you already know, then list what you want to know in the middle column. Use the third column when you review and assess what you learned. You can also add more columns to record places where you found information and places where you can look for more information.

Adjust Your Reading Speed

Your reading speed is a key factor in how well you understand what you are reading. You will need to adjust your speed depending on your reading purpose. Scanning means running your eyes quickly over the material to look for words or phrases. Scan when you need a specifi c piece of information. Skimming means reading a passage quickly to fi nd its main idea or to get an overview. Skim a text when you preview to determine what the mate- rial is about.

Reading for detail involves careful reading while paying attention to text structure and monitoring your understanding. Read for detail when you are learning concepts, following complicated directions, or preparing to analyze a text.


Try to form a mental picture of scenes, characters, and events as you read. Use the details and descriptions the author gives you. If you can visualize what you read, it will be more interesting and you will remember it better.


Ask yourself questions about the text while you read. Ask yourself about the importance of the sentences, how they relate to one another, if you understand what you just read, and what you think is going to come next.