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 an overview for reading comprehension with videos, research, strategies, and resources for educators and parents. Includes bilingual (English-Spanish) resources.
Encourages comprehension growth through guidance from experienced readers and increasing vocabulary knowledge. Distinguishes between decoding words and being able to understand a text.
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.
Demonstrates how guided reading can differentiate instruction and develop strategic readers. Offers reflection questions, downloadable resources, and videos on guided reading best practices.
Gives access to informational articles that adjust based on the student's reading level. Includes relevant questions that support critical thinking and comprehension.
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.
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.
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.