Woman reading to a girl

How to Teach Reading Comprehension

Over 33 million adults living in the U.S. cannot read or write. Children of parents who are functionally illiterate are 72% more likely to graduate high school with low reading comprehension skills. Additionally, these children are at risk for behavioral issues, getting poor grades and/or dropping out of school altogether. With the undeniable correlation between the inability to read and poverty, more needs to be done to ultimately eliminate illiteracy in America.

Research shows that children who can read independently score higher in all subjects on achievement tests and enjoy reading comprehension more than children who need help reading and understanding what they read. Students in elementary school who read at home also score high on achievement tests and benefit from increased vocabulary growth, reading comprehension, spelling and an overall understanding of the world.

The reading activities provided by our resources will help you teach students how to read and comprehend written content.

Reading Comprehension Skills and Activities

While knowing the spelling and meaning of words are helpful, those aren’t enough.​ Children and adults who comprehend what they’re reading are engaging in the learned skill of co-constructing meaning and context within a sentence or paragraph.

In this way, reading comprehension may be considered transactional, i.e., the ability of a reader to bring experiences and purpose to what they are reading.

Reading comprehension and what a reader “gets” from written text also depends on their immediate needs and emotions. That’s why two different people reading the same thing can come away with contrasting perceptions of what they just read. Learning effective reading comprehension habits that promote literacy is more advantageous to natural learning than memorizing word meanings. Reading comprehension strategies, such as becoming familiar with word associations, how they are used in the context of a sentence, and grammatical distinctions applied to them provide a holistic reading education. 

Visual and media literacy are skill sets vital to improving reading comprehension. Visual literacy is the ability to understand, evaluate and create/use visual media and images to impart ideas to others. This involves the use of paintings, drawings, language and digital images. Media literacy includes understanding when content is persuasive and biased, versus content that’s informative and neutral, by recognizing literary devices such as metaphors and rhetorical questioning. As students enhance their visual and media literacy skills, they can more effectively understand the content they read.





According to the book flood theory, students who are consistently exposed to reading material develop literacy and language skills more easily and quickly. Some studies have found that children who are not exposed to books and reading lack “sophisticated and critical vocabulary” and suffer “gaps in knowledge that negatively impact adulthood literacy.” A child’s home and classroom should always have immediate access to books, magazines and other reading materials to encourage curiosity and reading comprehension.

Reading Intervention Strategies

Reading intervention may be necessary when a student has difficulty recognizing and understanding words and applying them correctly to the context of what they’re reading. Reading intervention programs can include straightforward tutoring, modification of instructional deliveries, using visually-supported tests, and digital reading programs.

Resources in this section provide educators with in-depth information about recognizing and helping kids who are struggling to read.

Reading Education Professional Development

It’s important for educators to keep their skills updated in the area of reading education. New studies and insights bring about new approaches for the teaching of reading and sheds new light on the imperative need for reading comprehension. Here’s a list of conferences and teaching programs that will help keep your knowledge and skills up-to-date.