Reading is a basic life skill. Literacy is the foundation of many facets of daily life: school, work and personal livelihood. Reading skills can be generally divided into tiers; mastering one level is necessary to go to the next. Mastering reading skills and subskills is a structured process, allowing readers to understand small words up to entire books.

Vocabulary

Vocabulary is the most fundamental reading skill required to understand text. Vocabulary is typically learned through academic study and daily conversation. Studying words through reading usually involves matching text to definitions as each word comes up in a text. Reading magazines and publications teaches colloquial words specific to a culture. For example, slang words are typically learned from casual editorials and online blogs.

Comprehension

Comprehension is the ability to understand the meaning of sentences and predict upcoming words as the reader is going through a text. A particular subskill of comprehension is reading speed: the ability to read and understand a text within a short amount of time. This skill is usually tested by summary activities. For example, students may train to condense paragraphs into a single sentence. Speed can be measured through timed activities such as short comprehension quizzes. These quizzes would ask basic details such as names, places and important events.

Fluency

Readers with developed fluency can grasp entire articles and stories as large segments or as a single whole. For example, while a beginner reader could outline the details of each paragraph, the fluent reader can identify the main theme or logic of an article. Fluency can further increase reading speed through the skimming subskill; this is the ability to understand articles by quickly identifying the main points of each paragraph. This skill develops writing as well; main ideas are expanded to various smaller points.

Synthesis

Synthesis allows readers to apply what they’ve learned from an article. They can translate the data into relevant information. For example, synthesizing a section of a science book could form the basis of experiments and application. Readers who master synthesis can typically teach other about the content of a reading. They can grasp the concept and effectively relay the information to a general, unfamiliar audience. An important subskill of synthesis is critical thinking; master readers can question articles based on their retained knowledge and offer alternative details and solutions to the presented information.