What Are Essential Reading Skills? (Plus How To Improve Them)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 1 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Reading skills enable you to acquire and understand essential information and use it for decision-making in personal and professional life. The ability to read well correlates with having good writing skills, and it can also make you better at expressing yourself and communicating with other people. By understanding the role these skills play in developing strong communication abilities, you can consciously improve them. In this article, we define reading skills and reading comprehension, discuss the essential skills for reading comprehension and explain how to improve them.

What are reading skills?

Reading skills enable you to read written texts in one or more languages. They can also help you understand, interpret, analyse and explain the text you read. They can improve your overall literacy skills by helping you find meaning in texts and developing language fluency by improving your vocabulary and enhancing your expertise in sentence construction. It is essential to have excellent reading skills to communicate effectively through notes, letters, emails and other forms. These skills can ensure that there are fewer instances of miscommunication and misunderstanding in personal and professional interactions.

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What is reading comprehension?

Reading comprehension is the ability to understand the text that you read and identify and interpret the meaning in them. It is generally necessary to have strong communication skills to develop reading comprehension. Along with being fluent in the language you are reading, you may require using contextual clues to understand unfamiliar vocabulary and identify the main characteristics of the text and its specific purpose.

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Essential reading comprehension skills

The following skills are essential for developing reading comprehension:

Decoding

Developing phonemic awareness is essential in the reading and reading comprehension process, and it can help you understand what you read and hear. Decoding is the skill that enables you to listen to the individual sounds or phonemes in words and connect them to form letters and groups of letters. It is a foundational skill in the reading process and allows you to play the sound or decode words that you have heard before but might not yet have seen in written form.

You can develop decoding skills by learning how to identify the sound in words and practising matching them with the corresponding letters. Engaging in activities like word games, reading, repeating rhymes and singing songs can help build decoding skills.

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Fluency

Fluency can refer to various skills that enable you to become an expert in reading or speaking a language. It can include your ability to read, recognise words by sight, understand their meaning and decode new vocabulary without sounding it out. It also refers to your ability to read clearly, fast and without errors, in the right tone and immediately comprehend the text you are reading. It is essential to have reading fluency to develop reading comprehension, and you can build it by reading books. By regularly encountering different words, you improve your word recognition abilities.

Vocabulary

It is essential to have an extensive vocabulary to build reading comprehension. It can influence your ability to understand the words you read, interpret the meaning of new words and make connections between old and new terms. Vocabulary can help you better comprehend the texts you read, figure out the context and express your ideas clearly. You can expand your vocabulary by reading widely and exposing yourself to new words. You can have conversations with other people on various topics, complete language exercises and create word lists with their antonyms and synonyms.

Sentence construction and cohesion

Sentence construction is how you frame sentences to provide specific meaning to the text. While it may seem more like a writing skill, you also require it to develop your reading ability. Cohesion is about making connections between the ideas expressed in the sentences so that you can understand the overall meaning of the text. It is necessary to learn the basics of sentence construction and develop the ability to connect the ideas in the sentences to build reading comprehension. You can learn sentence construction and cohesion by reading extensively and practising connecting two or more thoughts.

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Inference

The ability to draw inferences is necessary for developing reading comprehension skills. Drawing an inference involves deriving information, ideas and opinions from written texts, identifying their meaning and purpose and connecting them with the knowledge you already have. Some texts do not state their purpose and meaning implicitly, and, in such cases, knowing how to infer their meaning can help. You can use prior knowledge to understand the context better. It is also easier to remember what you have read when you know how to draw inferences.

There are various ways to build your reasoning abilities for drawing inferences. You can develop them through different life experiences, by reading literature, talking with people and watching television shows, films and documentaries.

Retention

Retaining what you read is a significant part of reading comprehension. When you read, you understand the meaning of the text, internalise the information and use it to build your knowledge. The better you comprehend, the more you are likely to retain the information. If you do not understand a particular text, it may help to reread it, look for an online summary or ask someone to explain it to you. You can strengthen your retention abilities by revising text, reading aloud, reiterating what you have read and explaining what you understand to someone else.

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How to improve your reading skills

You can improve your reading abilities by following these steps:

1. Develop a habit of reading daily

The best way of improving your reading ability is to read every day. You can set aside a set time every day to read. This can be as short as 20 minutes. At this time, you can read what you find interesting, enjoyable, informational or educational, such as fictional stories, non-fiction essays or news articles.

2. Set specific goals for your reading

By setting specific goals for your reading, you may develop your skills faster and measure your progress. You can set goals such as improving your vocabulary, understanding the purpose and meaning of the texts you read, gaining new and useful information or improving your ability to make connections between new and existing text. As your reading ability improves, you can advance to reading more challenging texts.

3. Review the texts beforehand

Before you read the text in detail, you can review it quickly to get an idea of the information it contains. Read the title, headlines, image captions, and other text features to understand its gist. Once you know the central idea of what you are reading, you can better comprehend the actual text, which can help improve your reading abilities.

4. Try to understand the purpose

You can be better at reading by understanding the purpose behind the texts and your intention in reading them. When reading a text, try to find out why someone wrote it and the message they intend to convey. This might require you to research the author and understand their perspective. It can also be helpful to be aware of why you are reading it. For instance, it might be to find information or for entertainment.

5. Use different reading strategies

It is possible to increase your reading comprehension by applying different reading strategies. You might review the text, study the text structure or identify specific text features. You can also determine the purpose of the text, such as whether it is persuasive, informational or instructional. You can find out if the text contains a central theme, if it details problems and their solutions or if it presents different ideas and their comparisons.

6. Take notes as you read

The process of taking notes as you read can increase your reading comprehension and improve your reading abilities. By taking notes, you can consciously note the vocabulary, phrases and sentence construction that make the text so effective. You may also be able to gain insights into the writer's thinking process and the ideas they are promoting in the text. By taking notes, you can learn new vocabulary, gain more knowledge and explore unique perspectives.

7. Summarise what you read

You can improve your reading abilities by summarising the text you have read. You can summarise it in your own words, either in writing or verbally, as you explain it to someone. It can help you understand, remember and develop a perspective on the central theme, topics and minute details of the text. As you practise summarising texts, you may notice a distinct improvement in your ability to read, comprehend and retain what you are reading. It may also have a positive effect on your communication and interpersonal skills.

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