Definition: The ability to understand, remember, and communicate meaning from what has been read. Reading comprehension is the culmination of all of the five pillars and the ultimate goal of learning to read.

Why it matters: As vocabulary and concept demands increase, children must be able to devote the bulk of their attention to making meaning from text. Reading comprehension is an active process that requires an intentional and thoughtful interaction between the reader and the text.

Provides animated video lessons on main idea and details; compare and contrast; cause and effect; sequencing; and making inferences--all key skills for effective reading comprehension.

Provides 71 videos modeling mini-lessons that target specific reading strategies and support literacy development across content areas, including word problems in mathematics.

Describes fun comprehension activities that are visual and hands-on. For example, connection chains support text-to-text connections and visual crafts encourage the reader to be artistic.

Reading Rockets >

Provides an overview for reading comprehension with videos, research, strategies, and resources for educators and parents. Includes bilingual (English-Spanish) resources.

K12 Reader >

Encourages comprehension growth through guidance from experienced readers and increasing vocabulary knowledge. Distinguishes between decoding words and being able to understand a text.

Literacy How >

Describes comprehension as the ultimate goal of reading. Includes tips for building background knowledge and information for English language learners. Provides links to assessments tools.

Learn >

Demonstrates how guided reading can differentiate instruction and develop strategic readers. Offers reflection questions, downloadable resources, and videos on guided reading best practices.

newsela >

Gives access to informational articles that adjust based on the student's reading level. Includes relevant questions that support critical thinking and comprehension.

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LightSail provides students instant feedback and encouragement as they read texts of their choice at their reading level. Through a personalized experience, students answer questions and earn badges.

Starfall exposes emergent readers to a variety of genres and topics that they can explore through a fun, free app. Supports comprehension by reading aloud to the user and incorporating sight words.

What Every Teacher Should Know About Reading Comprehension
L. Pardo

Explains how the relationship between reader, text, and sociocultural context builds meaning. Provides useful strategies, such as engaging students personally with text and composition.

Building Background Knowledge
S. Neuman, T. Kaefer, & A. Pinkham

Suggests that gaps in background knowledge may be due to socioeconomic differences. Offers strategies for educators to build students' background knowledge to meet today's education standards.

Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension
N. Duke and P. Pearson

Argues for balanced instruction with explicit teaching and practice time for comprehension routines. Advises reading authentic texts across genres and writing texts for others to understand.

Knowledge and Practice: The Real Keys to Critical Thinking
D. Willingham

Discusses the need for skills like critical thinking and text analysis for readers. Proposes that expanding background knowledge and using metacognitive strategies improve higher order thinking.

On the Importance of Listening Comprehension
T. Hogan, S. Adlof, & C. Alonzo

Highlights how word recognition (i.e. decoding) and listening comprehension build better readers. Asserts that listening comprehension supports reading comprehension in the primary grades.

Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction
E. Keene and S. Zimmerman

Describes the use and benefits of strategy-based comprehension instruction. Gives classroom examples grounded in the latest research and affirms essential elements of comprehension teaching.

Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade: A Practice Guide
T. Shanahan and et al

Provides practical guidelines for building K-3 students' reading comprehension. Recommends strategy instruction, text structure, guided reading, and purposeful text selection.


Duke, N. K., & Pearson, P. (2002). Effective practices for developing reading comprehension. In A.E. Farstrup & S.J. Samuels (Eds.), What research has to say about reading instruction (Chapter 10).

Hogan, T., Adlof, S., & Alonzo, C. (2014). On the importance of listening comprehension. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 16(3), 199-207. Retrieved from

Keene, E.O., Zimmerman, S., & Newkirk, T. (2007). Mosaic of thought: The power of comprehension strategy instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Neuman, S.B., Kaefer, T., & Pinkham, A. (2014). Building background knowledge. The Reading Teacher, 68(2), 145-148. 

Pardo, L. S. (2004). What every teacher needs to know about comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 58(3), 272–280. 

Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N.K., Pearson, P.D., Schatschneider, C., et al. (2010). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade: A practice guide. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. 

Willingham, D.T. (2016). Knowledge and practice: The real keys to critical thinking. Knowledge Matters, 1, 1-8.