Mastering Active Reading: 19 Best Practices for Improved Comprehension

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In a world of available educational resources, 43.0 million or about 21% of adults in the U.S. have low literacy skills. Yes, this is true, and the good thing is that if you are ready to take your reading game to the next level, you can.

Whether you’re a student, a professional, or simply a casual bookworm, mastering active reading is a skill that can supercharge your comprehension and enrich every reading experience. Reading is not just about flipping through pages, but about engaging with the text, actively questioning and analyzing, and making connections that expand your understanding.

We have done detailed research and explored the 19 best practices in reading for improved comprehension. They can help you dive deep into the written word and extract every bit of knowledge and enjoyment from your reading materials.

So, grab your favorite book, get comfortable and let’s embark on a journey to become masterful active readers together!

Best Practices for Improving Comprehension

Improving comprehension and becoming a masterful active reader can be an easy task with the right reading best practices and the proper dedication. So here are some great ways to up your reading game.

1 Active Reading Techniques

An active reading approach example involves engaging with the text as opposed to absently flipping the pages or passively scanning words. Techniques 21st century readers use to enhance comprehension significantly are:

  • highlighting key points
  • underlining essential sentences
  • jotting down notes in the margins

A good idea is to use a pencil to make little notes and mark down some important or interesting points to help you put your full focus on the text you are reading.

2 Previewing and Predicting

Before reading a text, take a few moments to skim through it and preview it. An example of previewing in reading includes:

  • reading the title
  • skimming the table of contents
  • glancing through the chapter headings

Make predictions about what you expect to learn, and keep these in mind as you read to stay engaged. You can even make a checklist and write the goals to see what you have predicted correctly.

3 Establishing a Reading Routine

As with many things in life, consistency is quite important when elevating your reading comprehension, focus, and mastering your active reading practices. Use some time each day for reading, and preferably do it in a quiet and comfortable environment. This routine will train your brain to focus and help you to absorb information more effectively. This is a must on the list of best practices in reading.

4 Building Vocabulary

According to a US research team, half of the adults have not read a book in over a year. The vocabulary cannot grow and be robust if one does not read. That is why, boosting the vocabulary enhances comprehension by allowing you to grasp the subtleties of the text.

So what is the reading strategy to boost vocabulary? You’ll see the best results if you make it a habit to learn new words and their meanings. We encourage you to use flashcards, dictionaries or vocabulary-building apps to help you expand the word bank.

5 Active Questioning

Some high school reading strategies recommend asking questions about the text, book, or material while reading. Some questions include “What is the central idea?” or “How does it relate to what I previously knew?”

Actively seeking answers means deepening your understanding and engaging with the text on a higher level.

6 Visualization and Imagery

Very useful reading strategies for kids include bringing the text to life by visualizing the scenes, characters, and concepts described. Imagine the setting, picture the characters in your mind, and create mental images that make the reading experience more vivid and memorable.

7 Summarization

Start by quickly reading a text to get the summary of it. Once you’ve done that, you can read each section or chapter in more detail to summarize the main points in more detail using good reading practices. This exercise helps solidify your understanding and highlights any areas that need further clarification.

8 Active Reading with Others

Engaging in discussions, forming a reading group, or joining a book club can motivate you to keep reading and stay on track with your reading practices. This will help you enhance comprehension by providing different perspectives and insights.

Don’t hesitate to share thoughts, ask questions and exchange ideas with fellow readers to deepen your understanding of the text.

a woman reading her book on her bed

9 Expanding Reading Horizons

Don’t limit yourself to a specific genre or subject. Explore different topics, genres, and authors to broaden your knowledge and develop a well-rounded perspective. Exposing yourself to diverse reading material will help you grow your reading game and comprehension skills.

10 Critical Thinking

By understanding the importance of reading strategies and using improved active reading practices and skills, you will achieve better comprehension to essentially boost your critical thinking. However, to accomplish this you need to approach the text with a curious and questioning mindset.

Evaluate the author’s arguments, identify biases, and assess the validity of the information presented. By thinking critically, you engage with the material at a deeper level, form your own informed opinions and develop a more comprehensive understanding of the text and the concepts behind the material.

11 Note-Taking Strategies

Take notes while reading to capture important ideas, key concepts, and noteworthy examples. Organize notes in such a way that it makes sense to you, by using headings, bullet points or mind maps.

You can also use a personalized sign system, like a heart for something you like, a star for something important, a square for a “must remember” point, and similar. Make a legend of the signs you are going to use at the beginning, the end of the book, or somewhere on the side. Reviewing these notes later will reinforce your comprehension.

12 Reflective Journaling

Maintain a reading journal to record your thoughts, reflections, and personal connections to the text. Consider how your own experiences relate to the text or challenge your existing beliefs. Reflective journaling promotes active engagement and helps you retain and internalize the information more effectively and keep you interested.

13 Reading Across Formats

Don’t limit yourself to a single format, such as an old-school printed book. Explore reading materials in various formats, such as e-books, audiobooks, or articles. Experimenting with different formats can make the reading experience more engaging and cater to different learning styles.

Traditional books are reading selection examples that remain a favorite to some. And while audiobooks can be a great option for auditory learners, e-books offer convenience and accessibility to people that read a lot.

Embracing different formats expands your reading horizons and keeps the experience fresh and exciting. In time you’ll find which reading practice format suits you the most.

14 Time Management

Keeping reading practices in your schedule requires effective time management. Allocate and set dedicated reading time into manageable chunks. Set goals for each reading session, whether it’s completing a chapter or understanding a specific concept.

Avoid distractions and create a quiet and comfortable reading environment to give the text or a book the attention it deserves.

a man focusing on reading his book

15 Mindful Reading

It turns out that mindfulness is not only limited to meditation—it can also be applied to reading. Practice full presence and engagement with the text to help you understand the text profoundly.

Avoid rushing through the material and instead focus on each sentence, word and paragraph. Take time to absorb and reflect on your reading. Mindful reading enhances comprehension by allowing you to fully grasp the nuances and details of the text.

16 Enhancing Reading Speed

While mindful reading is important, improving your reading speed can also boost comprehension. Some strategies that work to improve reading speed include:

  • minimizing subvocalization (refers to pronouncing words in your mind)
  • expanding your peripheral vision to capture more words at once
  • using your finger or a pointer to guide your reading

Increase your reading speed step-by-step to retain reading comprehension. Keep in mind that it’s about finding the balance between speed and understanding.

17 Take Breaks and Reflect

Reading for long periods without taking breaks can lead to mental fatigue and decreased comprehension. Take regular short breaks during your reading sessions to give your mind a rest.

Use this time to reflect on what you’ve read, summarize key points or simply relax and rejuvenate. Reflecting on the material allows you to consolidate your understanding and make connections between different ideas or concepts.

18 Make a Wish List

Create a wish list of all the books and text you’d like to read. This will give you purpose and motivate you to keep your reading practices going in the long run!

a man reading a red book

19 A Book “To Go”

Take a book or an e-book (for a bigger convenience) “to go”. You can download it on your phone, tablet, laptop or a specialized reader. Whenever you have some spare time or take a break from work, you can do a fast read to keep the reading habit intact.      

The Goal of Reading Comprehension

The goal of reading comprehension is to understand and make sense of the presented information. It goes beyond simply decoding words. It involves actively engaging with the material, analyzing its meaning, and forming connections with prior knowledge.

The ultimate objective of effective reading practices is to extract the main ideas of the author, identify supporting details, and grasp the author’s intended message.

Essentially, the goal is to understand more complex concepts and in a way become more educated and book-smart. By improving reading comprehension, we enhance our ability to learn, communicate effectively and think critically. It allows us to navigate a wide range of texts with confidence and derive maximum value from the information we encounter.

How to Improve Reading Comprehension for Adults?

Improving reading comprehension for adults requires implementing effective reading practices and strategies that work and enhance understanding and engagement with the text. Here are several techniques that can help out the reading struggle.

Try to Read Aloud

Reading aloud can improve comprehension by activating both visual and auditory processing. It helps to reinforce understanding and allows you to hear the flow and rhythm of the text.

Identify the Main Thought

Focus on grasping the central idea or main thought of the passage or section. This provides a foundation for understanding the key message presented by the author.

Find the Supporting Details

Look for evidence and supporting details that reinforce the main thought. Understanding how these details relate to the main idea helps to build a comprehensive understanding of the text and the full concept of the idea.

Break Down Story Structure and Key Points

Analyze the structure of the text. Identify key points, arguments, or events to gain a deeper understanding of the narrative or informational content.

Make Use of Visual Organizers

Use graphic organizers, colored highlights, or mind maps to visually organize information. These tools help to visualize relationships, connections, and hierarchies within the text, making comprehension more manageable.

Generate Questions

Formulate questions as you read to actively engage with the material. Ask yourself who, what, when, where, why, and how questions to prompt deeper analysis and critical thinking.

Answer Questions

When encountering questions within the text or provided as comprehension exercises, actively work to answer them. This reinforces understanding and helps to verify comprehension.

Establish Background Knowledge

Draw upon your existing knowledge and experiences to help you connect with the text. Activate prior knowledge related to the topic, which facilitates comprehension and retention of new information.

What Research Says About Reading Comprehension?

Based on neuroscience research, reading can help people develop critical thinking and improve the theory of mind. Reading practices also boost leadership and entrepreneurial characteristics, qualities, and traits by activating different cognitive muscles.

This research shows that reading boosts comprehension and the development of critical thinking and sharpness in the mind. At the same time, understanding the mental state of others requires a crucial skill called the theory of mind. This skill is used to comprehend that the beliefs and desires of people differ.


What is efficient reading?

Efficient reading refers to the ability of reading quickly and accurately while at the same time comprehending and retaining the information.

Why do we need reading practice?

We need reading practice to enhance our reading skills, expand our knowledge, improve comprehension, and strengthen critical thinking abilities.

What makes a good and effective reader?

A good and effective reader is someone who can understand and analyze a wide range of texts, actively engage with the material, make connections, and extract the main ideas.

How can I practice reading daily?

You can practice reading daily by setting aside dedicated time for reading – time management, choosing materials that interest you, and varying the genres and formats. You can also use active reading practices like note-taking and summarizing, and gradually increase the difficulty level of the texts you read.

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