Readers at all levels are constantly learning, and sometimes even highly skilled readers are challenged by difficult texts. By setting up strategies to improve your reading comprehension, you can read more effectively and efficiently, and feel less frustrated by difficult topics. There are several key tools that can be used to improve reading comprehension, no matter what your reading level is, although less advanced readers may want to start by building vocabulary and learning about sentence structure, as these two key tools will greatly enhance reading comprehension.
One of the first steps to improve reading comprehension is reading a wide variety of texts, covering a range of subjects. Readers who stick to one type of book or genre often have difficulty reading outside of that genre; individuals who read only science fiction, for example. In this example, you might start expanding your knowledge by reading science books, to get a grounding in the scientific ideas behind science fiction, and then perhaps jump into sociology, history, or other topics which are tangentially related. Track science in the news, so that you become familiar with the news format as well. Try to challenge yourself by reading a different style of writing on a unique topic every day, even if it is merely a brief article.
While reading a challenging text, take notes. Stop to look up words that you do not recognize, and write down their definitions, also using them in a sentence. As you process the text, make notes of what the author is talking about, how he or she is organizing it, and the ideas that it raises for you. Stop periodically to reflect on what you have read so far to make sure that you are grasping it, and do not be afraid to read difficult sections out loud, or to re-read them several times to improve your reading comprehension. Even skilled readers miss crucial points because they race through the text, rather than reflecting on what they read.
You can also use cues that the author leaves to improve your reading comprehension. If you do not already know the parts of speech, learn them so that you can diagram sentences to identify the point that the author is driving at. Get familiar with writing formats, and watch out for important transitional words that imply a summation, a counter argument, a concession, examples, or a comparison. By learning how authors use the language they write in, you can be alert and ready for major points in what you are reading.
Ultimately, the best way to improve reading comprehension is to read more. Set aside time in your day to read, and if you live with others, try to get them reading the same thing, so that you can talk it over amongst yourselves and compare notes on the content. By reading more, you will expose yourself to more styles of writing and subject matter, broadening your horizons as well as expanding your reading comprehension.
That being said, don’t feel like you are in this alone. If you want a little extra help, consider hiring a professional tutor who specializes in reading comprehension.