You for Youth logo
Online Professional Learning and
Technical Assistance for
21st Century Community Learning Centers



Definition: Reading comprehension is understanding what one is reading, the ultimate goal of all reading activity. It is a complex process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning while reading text. Students who are effective readers engage in active thinking before they read, while they are reading and after they read, and this helps them make sense of the text.

  • Before Reading
    • Students think about why they are reading (for pleasure, to learn something new or to learn more about something they are familiar with) and then set a plan for how to approach their reading.
    • They think about the type of text they are about to read (novel, newspaper article, textbook, editorial or glamour magazine) and how this can affect their plan for reading. (I'm reading this magazine for pleasure, so I can skim things and stop where it looks interesting; I’m reading this to learn about something I don’t know very much about, so I’d better read slowly and make sure it makes sense.)
    • They think about what they already know about the theme or topic.
    • Students make predictions based on this background knowledge, and then, while reading, either find support for these predictions or adjust their thinking.
  • During Reading
    • Reading is an active process; while they are reading, students ask questions, think about what they know and what they are learning, make connections to other information, and make inferences.
    • Students monitor whether what they are reading makes sense; when it doesn’t, they use fix-up strategies to create meaning.
  • After Reading
    • Students are able to summarize the big ideas and important details of what they read.
    • Students can go beyond the text, synthesizing information from a variety of texts.
    • Students can analyze the information with a critical eye, and evaluate and make judgments about what they read.

For some helpful tips on conducting before-, during-, and after-reading activities that develop comprehension skills, check out BDA Comprehension Activities and the BDA Lesson Planning Training Starter.

My Notebook


The Notebook is a useful way to jot down notes as you go through the various topics available on the You For Youth website. If you'd like to use the notebook, please sign in if you already have an account or register now to join the Y4Y community!