Basic Reading Skills

by Karen Silvestri

Reading is an important skill for success in any facet of life. Reading is more than simply picking out words on a page; it is a process of critical thinking which involves evaluating ideas and applying them to everyday situations. Basic reading skills include vocabulary acquisition, pre-reading strategies, textual comprehension, organizational skills and response techniques. Mastering these basic skills enables the reader to increase their reading speed, comprehension and overall vocabulary.

Vocabulary Acquisition

An important basic skill in reading is recognizing words. To acquire a larger vocabulary the reader should practice word recognition using sight words and high-frequency word use lists such as the Dolch Basic Sight Vocabulary or Fry's List of 1000 High Frequency Words. These words are practiced with flash cards, word walls and worksheets. A person can improve their vocabulary also by working crossword puzzles and playing board games such as Scrabble.

Pre-reading Strategies

Pre-reading strategies include taking the time to become acquainted with the text before jumping into the actual main body of the text. Readers should read the title, background information, author information and subheadings within the text. It is also helpful for them to note any highlighted or bolded words and also captions under photographs. Previewing any pictures or sidebars that accompany the text also help the reader to connect with the material before actually beginning to read the text.

Textual Comprehension

An important skill in reading is learning to comprehend the main idea of a text. This is accomplished by first determining the thesis statement of the text. The thesis statement, or topic sentence, tells the reader what the text is about; it is the most important sentence in the text. Sometimes the main idea is implied rather than directly stated in a sentence and the reader must learn how to infer (make an educated guess) as to what the main idea of the text is in order to comprehend the material as a whole.

Organizational Skills

Another basic skill that is essential to reading is the ability to organize the material. This helps in improving reading comprehension and in increasing reading speed. Ways of organizing the information include highlighting key points, making notes in the margins and preparing an outline of the text. Training oneself to organize key points while reading aids in comprehension and improves reading speed.

Response Techniques

Summarizing the reading material allows the reader to personalize the information they have read. Studies show that people retain information better when they are able to relate it to their own personal experience. A summary of a reading text requires that the reader restate the main idea of the material and reflect on their own reaction to the content of the text. This basic reading skill is essential to becoming a better reader.

References

  • Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language. New Edition, Christine Nuttall, 1996
  • When Kid's Can't Read, Kylene Beers, 2003

About the Author

Karen Silvestri is an English professor at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Fla., and has been writing professionally since 1997. She also leads workshops on memoir writing, journaling, creative writing and poetry in her community and online. Silvestri holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, and studied business and education at the graduate level.

Photo Credits

  • Classroom Clipart