While comprehension is the goal of reading, it can be the most difficult skill to master. The ability to decipher letters and sound out words is absent in many children as well as adults. However, this is hardly the end of the world!

As with the struggle to learn any subject (Math, English, etc.), the key to overcoming reading and comprehension problems is to practice. And it isn’t enough to simply expose your mind to a variety of reading materials and hope for the best. You must repeatedly perform routine exercises that improve comprehension.


5 Reading Comprehension Exercises that Can Improve Reading Skills

Reading comprehension exercises are activities specifically designed to help both adults and children better understand the words they are reading – improving their level of comprehension. These exercises are an effective method for increasing the efficiency and speed of which one reads. There are a variety of techniques out there aimed at helping to improve reading skills. Simply googling “reading comprehension exercises” will return a hefty list of options to sift through.  ChatEbooks lists down the top 5 comprehension exercises that my search query returned:

K-W-L Process

The K-W-L Process stands for Know, Want to Know and Learned. It is an instructional reading strategy used to guide students through a text. Here’s how it works: before reading literature, find a piece of paper and create three columns. Label the first column “K”, the second column “W”, and the third column “L”. Under K, write everything you think you know about the topic of the literature you are about to read. Under W, write everything you would want to learn about the topic. Read the material, and then write everything you have learned under L. Once you’ve completed each column, summarize the whole topic into an essay.

This entire process aims to build comprehension and memory retention abilities. And doing this repeatedly on a regular basis has been proven to bare results.

Retelling the Story

Retelling the story is similar to summarization. This reading comprehension exercise helps you learn to notice patterns, themes, and sequences in stories and narratives. The idea is pretty straightforward. First, read a short story or narrative filled with sequenced events. Then identify the five or six main events that appeared in the story in the order that they occurred.  Next write short sentences describing each of the events that you’ve identified. The best way to determine if you have attained proper comprehension is based on your ability to summarize the story using your own words.

This reading comprehension exercise works best when you have a partner who can assist. If you are a parent working with a child, you can read the story with your child, write five sentences describing the five main events of the story on five different pieces of paper and then give the child a chance to try and organize these strips of paper in the right order using words like ‘first’, ‘next’, and ‘then’.


CATAPULT stands for Cover, Author Title, Audience, Page One, Underlying Message, Look and Time, Place and Characters.

The idea behind this comprehension exercise is to research a piece of literature before you read it. Then once you’ve actually read the book, spend a considerable amount of time processing it.  Next you’ll attempt to answer the questions in the CATAPULT acronym such as: what did the book cover tell you before you read the book, what other books has the author written, where do you think the story is going after reading only page one and so on and so forth.

Increase Your Vocabulary

If you want to improve your comprehension skills, you need to stock your vocabulary. And simply picking up a dictionary and memorizing the words won’t get the job done. You need to be able to understand the context in which the words can be used.

That being said, one of the easiest ways to increase your vocabulary while simultaneously improving comprehension is to read more books. And as you are reading, take notes; write down every new and unfamiliar word you come across. Using a dictionary, find out what the words mean and practice using them in your conversations throughput the day. Doing so will cement the new words to memory.  In time you’ll not only comprehend better, but you’ll also be able to articulate your thoughts more effectively.

Mind Movies

The underlying struggle present in comprehension disorders is an inability to make sense of the words being read. So an interesting reading comprehension exercise you can do for this is to read something out loud and then describe the images that come to mind. For example, you can try to relate what you are reading to a past memory. If a story mentions a place you have visited, recall the experiences you had while you were there.  This type of reading-association uses your five senses as well as your emotions. Therefore it can help improve memorization which in turn will lead to better comprehension.

Whatever reading comprehension exercises you employ, patience is essential to progress and improvement. Keep in mind that comprehension is a skill that must be learned. So do not expect to receive results overnight. As with most exercises, you will only get better if you work at your tasks regularly, without fail.


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