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How to Improve Reading Comprehension

Updated on October 05, 2011

reading comprehension strategies - reading strategies

What is reading comprehension? Reading comprehension is being able to understand and hopefully remember most of what you’ve read. If you’re using your reading skills for enjoyment, you might not be so concerned with reading comprehension. When you’re employing your reading skills to learn new material, however, reading comprehension can become extremely important. You know this from when you were in school, and if you have kids who are in school, you’re probably reminded of the importance of reading comprehension quite often.

Students are constantly being evaluated on their reading comprehension. This might be done formally, in the form of quizzes, chapter tests, final examinations, and standardized tests, and it’s also assessed in informal ways, like in class discussions and homework assignments. Reading comprehension is often closely associated with writing skills, too. As a retired teacher, I understand the importance of reading comprehension!

Some people are just naturally effective readers. It seems that these fortunate individuals can just glance over unfamiliar written material and grasp it quickly. Others, however, aren’t so lucky. They might have to really work and struggle to learn the same material. Even for this latter group, there’s hope. There are several reading comprehension strategies you can use to improve reading comprehension.

Reading comprehension strategies - preview

Let’s say that you have to read a chapter in a textbook about American history, and let’s say the chapter includes twenty pages. That’s a lot of information to absorb. The material will be much easier to learn if you break the chapter down into sections. Before you begin reading, have a notebook and pen ready, and go to a quiet place where you won’t be distracted.

Consider the title of the chapter. What do you already know about this subject? Spend a few minutes recalling information you’ve learned that relates to the topic at hand. Next, scan the chapter’s headings, and write each one down in your notebook. Leave lines between the listings so that you can add notes later. When you come across unfamiliar words, write them down and look them up.

The next thing you need to do to improve your reading skills is to look at any pictures, photographs, tables, timelines, and diagrams in the chapter. Be sure to read the headings and captions. This will help prepare your brain to receive and process the new information.

Reading strategies – outlining

As you begin reading the chapter, take notes. After reading a paragraph, ask yourself, “What was the main idea of that paragraph?” If you can’t answer this question, you need to read the paragraph again. When you can correctly identify the main idea in the paragraph, jot it down in your notebook under the paragraph heading. Do this for all the paragraphs in the chapter.

When you’ve finished reading the chapter and taking notes, take a break. Our brains can only absorb so much information at one time. Enjoy a snack, take a walk, or watch television for an hour or so before returning to your study session.

When you return, close your book and read your notes. Do they make sense? Are you sure you understand the material, based on your notes? If not, reread the paragraphs that you find confusing, and update your notes if you need to.

Reading comprehension strategies for auditory learners

We don’t all learn the same way. Some of us learn best by seeing and reading, while others might learn best by hearing. If you’re an auditory learner, you might need to take some extra steps in order to improve your reading comprehension. After visually scanning the chapter and listing the paragraph headings, have someone read the chapter to you. If this isn’t an option, read the chapter aloud and record yourself. Take notes as you listen.

Actually, this is a good reading strategy for everyone, even for visual learners. Why? Our brains are like computers, and everything we see, hear, feel, taste, and smell is recorded. The problem, of course, is being able to retrieve the information when we need it. When we experience something via more than one modality, we have an extra tool for recalling the information, so our reading comprehension is greatly enhanced.


Use reading comprehension strategies to improve reading skills.
Use reading comprehension strategies to improve reading skills.

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    • mocrow profile image

      mocrow 5 years ago from Georgia

      I had a great teacher in high school who taught us similar reading comprehension strategies, and they really helped me in college. Great tips! Rated up!

    • profile image

      masmasika 5 years ago

      Great tips for students.

    • sholland10 profile image

      Susan Holland 5 years ago from Southwest Missouri

      These are great tips. I teach literature and encourage kids to take notes on main ideas and tell them to think about the most significant events in a selection. I love your point about auditory learners, too. Some kids need to hear it while others are happy just reading silently. Voted Up, useful, and interesting. I always enjoy reading about teaching techniques. :-)

    • Cloverleaf profile image

      Cloverleaf 5 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Interesting tips, Habee. I definitely find breaking text down into paragraphs helps me to absorb information better.

      Cloverleaf.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

      You have valuable information. I learn much from you. Thank you very much for share this hub. Vote up!

      Prasetio

    • khmohsin profile image

      khmohsin 5 years ago from London,UK

      As I want to improve my reading comprehension,I really got great tips after reading your hub.I will implement on myself and evaluate my improvement on reading comprehension.Thanks and vote up !!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, mo. You were lucky to have a teacher who taught you reading comprehension strategies!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, masmasika. I hope students find this info and read it!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      sholland, I always enjoy hearing from other teachers. Thanks for stopping by!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Right, Clover - breaking up large pieces of text is a great reading comprehension strategy. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Thank you, Prasetio! How have you been?

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      khmohsin, I'm glad you found my hub useful. Thanks for visiting!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

      Great job well done. Well laid out and clearly written. Thank you for all those tips.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      You're quite welcome, HH! Thanks for stopping by.

    • katrinasui profile image

      katrinasui 5 years ago

      Wonderful hub!

    • PageC profile image

      PageC 5 years ago

      Great tips -- and very timely as I'll be returning to school soon. Thank you!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Jessica, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Katrina, glad you liked my reading comprehension hub!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Page, good for you for going back to school!

    • mojefballa profile image

      Ikeji Chinweuba 5 years ago from Nigeria

      Nice hub..especially for students that find it difficult to read.

    • kripkrip420 profile image

      kripkrip420 5 years ago from In relation to what?

      Thanks for the tips. I am left-handed (right brained) and have trouble simply reading things. I need to get involved (touch, experiment, listen). The auditory learning section helped me a lot. Thank you!

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 5 years ago from sunny Florida

      Morning...I am newly retired from teaching, earlier, than planned as well. Being a teacher was what I was called to do...I knew it from my earliest days. Education today is a W H O L E new world...great changes have occurred and will continue to occur in the future for sure...not all good, not all bad...hopefully they will be more thoughtfully implemented. Your thoughts on reading comp are well taken. I taught middle school children (reading/composition) for 13 years. Many of the strategies you suggest will be of value to parents or to the students who read them.

    • profile image

      adana 5 years ago

      Morning...I am newly retired from teaching, earlier, than planned

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, mojef. I hope students find it useful. So many of them struggle with reading comprehension.

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Krip, so glad you found the info helpful!

    • habee profile image
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      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Pstraubie, I had always wanted to be a teacher, as well. It's a wonderful career, but as you know, it's not for everyone.

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Adana, why did you have to retire early?

    • profile image

      Manoj Ac 5 years ago

      that was pretty awesome..waiting to see more from you..thank you..

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Why, thank you, Manoj!

    • missolive profile image

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 5 years ago from Texas

      Great hub as usual habee! Very useful and helpful tips. Also, glad to have included a link to this hub from one of my reading hubs.

      Voted up and across! Bookmarked too :)

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks a bunch, missolive!

    • chicagoguy profile image

      Raj Lally Batala 5 years ago from Chicago ,USA

      great tips !!!

    • habee profile image
      Author

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks a bunch, Chicagoguy!

    • Zainnisar profile image

      Zainnisar 5 years ago from Little Island, Heart.

      Certainly helpful, but I am facing a problem during study and that is being lost in imaginations, mostly they are result of what I am reading is thought provoking but it wastes time.

    • profile image

      mamta sandhan 4 years ago

      indian administrative service is very good service about which this site has given the information , compression of learning how to give the time to study , what r the benifits to become an ias but this service is require so much of comptition andalso limited seats are avaliable in it. thankyou

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