From Struggling to Fluent: A Step-by-Step Guide to Improve Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is a critical skill that everyone must possess in order to succeed in academic and professional environments. However, many individuals struggle with reading comprehension, which can lead to a lack of confidence and low academic performance. The good news is that with the right approach and strategies, anyone can improve their reading comprehension skills. This article provides a step-by-step guide to help struggling readers become fluent in their reading comprehension abilities.

Understanding Reading Comprehension

Before delving into the strategies for improving reading comprehension, it’s essential to understand what reading comprehension is and how it works. Reading comprehension involves not only decoding words on a page but also understanding the meaning behind them. It requires readers to engage with the text, make connections, and draw conclusions. In other words, reading comprehension involves actively thinking and processing information while reading.

Several factors can affect reading comprehensions, such as a reader’s vocabulary, prior knowledge, and the complexity of the text. Additionally, some readers may struggle with comprehension due to learning disabilities such as dyslexia or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Identifying the underlying cause of a reader’s struggles can help determine the best approach for improving comprehension.

Step-by-Step Guide to Improving Reading Comprehension

Step 1: Start with the Basics

Improving reading comprehension starts with building a strong foundation. Readers need to have a solid understanding of basic reading skills such as phonics, fluency, and vocabulary. Phonics refers to the ability to decode words, while fluency involves reading smoothly and at an appropriate pace. Vocabulary is the collection of words a reader knows and understands.

Improving these basic reading skills can make it easier for readers to understand what they’re reading. Parents and teachers can support struggling readers by providing phonics instruction, opportunities to read aloud, and exposure to a wide variety of words.

Step 2: Activate Prior Knowledge

Another important factor in comprehension is prior knowledge. Readers who can connect what they’re reading to what they already know are more likely to understand and remember the information. Encourage readers to make connections between the text and their own experiences or knowledge. For example, if a reader is reading a book about dinosaurs, they could think about what they already know about dinosaurs or relate the information to something they’ve seen in a museum or on TV.

Step 3: Monitor Comprehension

Effective readers constantly monitor their comprehension as they read. They check their understanding, clarify confusing information, and ask questions to fill in any gaps. Teachers can encourage this behavior by modeling it during read-aloud and by providing opportunities for readers to practice monitoring their comprehension on their own.

Step 4: Use Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are visual tools that can help readers organize and process information. They can be used to break down complex texts, identify key ideas, and make connections between concepts. Common graphic organizers include Venn diagrams, flow charts, and concept maps.

Research has shown that using graphic organizers can improve comprehension, particularly for struggling readers (Dole et al., 1991). Teachers can provide graphic organizers for students or encourage students to create their own.

Step 5: Practice Active Reading

Active reading involves engaging with the text, making connections, and asking questions. Instead of passively reading, readers actively think about the information and process it as they go. Active reading can be encouraged by providing opportunities for discussion, asking open-ended questions, and having students make predictions about what will happen next.

Step 6: Provide Opportunities for Independent Reading

Independent reading can help readers develop fluency and comprehension skills. When readers choose their own books, they’re more likely to be engaged and motivated to read.

Teachers can support independent reading by providing a variety of books at different reading levels, allowing time for silent reading, and providing opportunities for students to share and discuss what they’ve read.

Step 7: Focus on Comprehension Strategies

Explicitly teaching comprehension strategies can help struggling readers develop the skills they need to understand what they’re reading. Some common comprehension strategies include predicting, visualizing, questioning, summarizing, and making connections.

Teachers can model these strategies during read-aloud and provide opportunities for students to practice using them. Gradually, students can learn to apply these strategies independently when reading on their own.

Step 8: Provide Feedback and Support

Providing feedback and support is crucial for helping struggling readers improve their comprehension skills. Teachers can provide feedback on students’ reading by listening to them read aloud, asking comprehension questions, and providing written feedback on reading assignments.

Additionally, teachers can provide support by offering extra practice and individualized instruction. For example, teachers can provide one-on-one or small group instruction, assign leveled reading materials, and provide targeted feedback based on students’ needs.


Improving reading comprehension skills can be a challenge, but with the right approach and strategies, anyone can become a fluent reader. Starting with the basics, activating prior knowledge, monitoring comprehension, using graphic organizers, practicing active reading, providing opportunities for independent reading, focusing on comprehension strategies, and providing feedback and support are all steps that can help struggling readers improve their comprehension skills.

By providing a supportive and engaging learning environment, teachers and parents can help struggling readers gain confidence and become successful readers.

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