Posted by: cindybiz | August 25, 2009

How to Improve Reading Comprehension

As the kids go back to school, it is important for them to have the skills they need to retain the information they are learning. This article has helpful ideas for high school and college/university students to help them comprehend their reading more completely and thus retain it longer!

Key Point
Good reading means building frameworks for connecting words to thoughts.

The Purpose of Reading.

The purpose of reading is to connect the ideas on the page to what you already know. If you don’t know anything about a subject, then pouring words of text into your mind is like pouring water into your hand. You don’t retain much. For example, try reading these numbers:

7516324 This is hard to read and remember.
751-6324 This is easier because of chunking.
123-4567 This is easy to read because of prior knowledge and structure.

Similarly, if you like sports, then reading the sports page is easy. You have a framework in your mind for reading, understanding and storing information.

So many books to read...

So many books to read...

Improving Comprehension.

Reading comprehension requires motivation, mental frameworks for holding ideas, concentration and good study techniques. Here are some suggestions.

Develop a broad background.
Broaden your background knowledge by reading newspapers, magazines and books. Become interested in world events.

Know the structure of paragraphs.

Good writers construct paragraphs that have a beginning, middle and end. Often, the first sentence will give an overview that helps provide a framework for adding details. Also, look for transitional words, phrases or paragraphs that change the topic.

Identify the type of reasoning.
Does the author use cause and effect reasoning, hypothesis, model building, induction or deduction, systems thinking?

Anticipate and predict.
Really smart readers try to anticipate the author and predict future ideas and questions. If you’re right, this reinforces your understanding. If you’re wrong, you make adjustments quicker.

Look for the method of organization.
Is the material organized chronologically, serially, logically, functionally, spatially or hierarchical?

Create motivation and interest.
Preview material, ask questions, discuss ideas with classmates. The stronger your interest, the greater your comprehension.

Pay attention to supporting cues.
Study pictures, graphs and headings. Read the first and last paragraph in a chapter, or the first sentence in each section.

Highlight, summarize and review.
Just reading a book once is not enough. To develop a deeper understanding, you have to highlight, summarize and review important ideas.

Build a good vocabulary.
For most educated people, this is a lifetime project. The best way to improve your vocabulary is to use a dictionary regularly. You might carry around a pocket dictionary and use it to look up new words. Or, you can keep a list of words to look up at the end of the day. Concentrate on roots, prefixes and endings.

Monitor effectiveness.
Good readers monitor their attention, concentration and effectiveness. They quickly recognize if they’ve missed an idea and backup to reread it.

Copyright 1991 Donald Martin, How to be a Successful Student

Photo Credits: net_efekt (Creative Commons license on Flickr)

I hope this blog is helpful to you and your children…if it is, feel free to share it with your friends. Just click the link at the top right and share away!

I would love to hear from you…post your ideas in the comment section!



  1. Really like your content. I’m a new Usborne consultant, so this is helpful! thanks so much!!!!

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