Child reading comprehension is often a focus at school, but reading comprehension for adults can also be an issue.
The importance of reading comprehension doesn’t go away when you’re an adult.
It helps you learn and understand what you read when you go to college, take classes, or learn new content at work. Strong comprehension allows you to understand contracts and agreements for things such as job offers and loans. It also helps you get more enjoyment out of reading for fun.
If you or another adult in your life shows signs of reading comprehension problems, try these strategies to improve comprehension.
1. Learn New Vocabulary
Your vocabulary is a large part of your reading comprehension. You need to recognize and understand the individual words before you can comprehend the overall text.
Growing your vocabulary helps you feel comfortable with a wider range of words. When they come up in reading passages, you know what they mean. You don’t get stuck on figuring out what the word is and what it means.
This allows you to keep reading smoothly without lots of starts and stops. That reading fluency helps you focus on the overall meaning of what you’re reading to improve comprehension.
Reading lots of books helps grow your vocabulary. If you come across a word you don’t know, write it down. Look up the meaning so you’ll have that knowledge for next time.
Researching new topics that interest you is a good way to come into contact with new words. Find the definition of those new words as you hear them.
Spend time writing, focusing on using new and interesting words. Use a thesaurus to find alternative options for common words in your writing.
Crosswords and other word games offer a fun way to expose yourself to new words.
Another option is a vocabulary word of the day app you can get on your phone. You automatically get a new word each day to continue exposing you to new vocabulary. Some words might be things you never use again, but if you come across some of them, you’ll already know what they mean.
2. Remove Distractions
It’s tough to understand what you’re reading when you’re surrounded by distractions. When you’re reading and want to focus on comprehension, move to a location where you can focus fully on what you’re reading.
Put your phone away or shut off the notifications while you read. If you check out every ding, you’ll forget what you’ve read and have trouble comprehending the text overall.
Move away from lots of activity, such as people watching TV or talking. A bedroom, office, or other quiet room in your home may be ideal. Libraries also tend to work well for finding quiet spots away from distractions.
3. Prepare Before You Read
Start asking questions and thinking about the text before you read to prepare your brain for comprehension.
If you’re reading an informational piece, such as a textbook, scan the chapter first. Read the headings, subheadings, captions, and questions at the end of the chapter. This helps you understand what you can expect to read.
For any type of text, think of questions that help you focus, such as where the book takes place, what topic it covers, what themes will show up, and what the main topic is. You don’t need the answers to those questions before you start reading. Simply get them in your head, so you start looking for the answers as you read.
4. Slow Your Pace
If you rush through reading, you’ll likely miss the details and context clues that make it easier to understand. Slowing down your reading pace lets you pick up on more of the words so you can catch more of the meaning.
One way to slow yourself down is by reading aloud. It takes more time to say each word out loud. You can’t glance over some of the words like you do when you read silently.
Reading aloud may also help you remember what you read better. You’re actively using a cognitive process that combines reading and forming the words, which can help with memory.
If you read long texts, consider spreading it out over more than one day. Trying to read too many chapters in one night can make you forget what you’ve read.
5. Break It Into Chunks
Instead of reading through a large passage all at once, break it into smaller chunks. This works especially well for a complex text that’s difficult to understand.
After each paragraph or subsection, make sure you understand what you just read. If you push through the entire chapter before you realize you don’t understand it, you’ve wasted your time and will have to go back and reread. Text typically builds off of what you’ve read, so if you don’t understand the beginning, the rest won’t make sense either.
6. Question What You Read
As you’re reading, continue asking yourself questions about what’s happening, so you focus on the meaning.
Look for context clues if you get stuck on a word. That means you use the information surrounding the word to figure out what it means.
Question yourself on the main idea of each paragraph, section, and chapter as you read. Looking at the main idea instead of only focusing on the little details can help you understand the overall picture the author creates.
Taking notes as you read can also help you remember key points. Just don’t stop too much to take notes, or you’ll interrupt your flow, which may interfere with your comprehension.
7. Reflect on the Text
Don’t just stop reading and move on with your day. Think back on what you read to understand it better.
Look back at the questions you created before you started reading. Can you answer those questions now?
Write down a quick summary of what you read to make sure you understand it. When you summarize, you rephrase what you read in your own words to show you comprehend it.
Improving Reading Comprehension for Adults
Reading comprehension isn’t just a concern for kids. Building reading comprehension for adults can help you strengthen your understanding. It can help you learn more efficiently and make more informed decisions.
Check out our reading comprehension mastery program for more information.