Research studies on reading and comprehension have shown that highly proficient readers utilize a number of different strategies to comprehend various types of texts, strategies that can also be used by less proficient readers in order to improve their comprehension.
Let’s explore these more in depth:
Making Inferences: In everyday terms we refer to this as “reading between the lines”. It involves connecting various parts of texts that aren’t directly linked in order to form a sensible conclusion. A form of assumption, the reader speculates what connections lie within the texts.
Planning and Monitoring: This strategy centers around the reader’s mental awareness and their ability to control their comprehension by way of awareness. By previewing text (via outlines, table of contents, etc.) one can establish a goal for reading-“what do I need to get out of this”? Readers use context clues and other evaluation strategies to clarify texts and ideas, and thus monitoring their level of understanding.
Asking Questions: To solidify one’s understanding of passages of texts readers inquire and develop their own opinion of the author’s writing, character motivations, relationships, etc. This strategy involves allowing oneself to be completely objective in order to find various meanings within the text.
Determining Importance: Pinpointing the important ideas and messages within the text. Readers are taught to identify direct and indirect ideas and to summarize the relevance of each.
Visualizing: With this sensory-driven strategy readers form mental and visual images of the contents of text. Being able to connect visually allows for a better understanding with the text through emotional responses.
Synthesizing: This method involves marrying multiple ideas from various texts in order to draw conclusions and make comparisons across different texts; with the reader’s goal being to understand how they all fit together.
Making Connections: A cognitive approach also referred to as “reading beyond the lines”, it involves finding a personal connection to reading, such as personal experience, previously read texts, etc. to help establish a deeper understanding of the context of the text. (1)
In summary, readers can apply an assortment of strategies to help increase comprehension of various types of texts. A good place to start testing the strategy that works best for you would be to buy a new book and try applying each one per each different chapter of the book. Next, try to identify any gaps in comprehension between the chapters, and use this to pinpoint which method had the most impact on what you’ve read. Happy Reading!
(1). Gersten, R., Fuchs, L. S., Williams, J. P., & Baker, S. (2001). Teaching reading comprehension strategies to students with learning disabilities: A review of research. Review of Educational Research, 71, 279–320.