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Boost Reading Skills with Literal Comprehension: Researched Based Tips for Success

Many students need help with literal comprehension, which is the ability to understand the literal meaning of a text without analyzing its deeper implications. Reading comprehension is a crucial skill that impacts academic performance and success. It involves the ability to understand, interpret, and analyze written texts. Therefore, literal comprehension is one of the foundational reading comprehension skills. 

Vocabulary Development

Research has consistently shown a strong correlation between vocabulary development and reading comprehension. For example, according to a study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), students with strong vocabularies were likelier to perform well on reading comprehension assessments than those with weaker vocabularies (NAEP, 2019). Another study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology found that students who received explicit vocabulary instruction performed better on reading comprehension tests than those who did not (Garcia & Cain, 2014).

In addition, research has also shown that there are effective methods for improving vocabulary development. For example, a study published in the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy found that students who used interactive vocabulary notebooks, which included activities like categorizing words and using them in context, showed significant gains in vocabulary knowledge (Hiebert et al., 2018). Another study found that using visual aids, such as pictures or videos, can help students to understand better and retain new vocabulary (Taylor & Kim, 2017).

Therefore, it is crucial for students to actively work on their vocabulary development in order to improve their literal comprehension skills. Reading widely and regularly, using tools like flashcards or vocabulary lists, and utilizing effective methods such as interactive notebooks and visual aids are ways that students can improve their vocabulary and, ultimately, reading comprehension.

Prior Knowledge

A crucial role in reading comprehension is prior knowledge. For example, in a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, students who had prior knowledge related to a text they were reading were better able to comprehend and retain the information than those who did not have prior knowledge (Graesser, Singer, & Trabasso, 1994). Another study found that activating students’ prior knowledge before reading a text can improve comprehension and retention of information (Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995).

Furthermore, connecting what is being read and what is already known is an effective strategy for improving prior knowledge and reading comprehension. For example, in a study published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, students who were taught to make connections between their prior knowledge and new information showed significantly improved comprehension compared to those who were not taught to make connections (van den Broek et al., 2005).

Students need to be aware of their prior knowledge and actively work on connecting what they are reading and what they already know. This can be done through strategies such as activating prior knowledge before reading and connecting new information and prior knowledge. By doing so, students can improve their literal comprehension skills and ultimately improve their academic performance.

Attention and Focus

Studies demonstrate the importance of active reading in improving literal comprehension. For example, students taught active reading strategies such as note-taking and summarizing showed significantly improved reading comprehension compared to those not (Biancarosa & Snow, 2006).

Another study found that attentional focus plays a crucial role in reading comprehension. In the study, participants trained to maintain focus and attention while reading showed significant improvements in their comprehension of the text compared to those not trained (DeVries et al., 2011).

Distractions such as phones and TVs can negatively impact attention and focus during reading. Studies have found that students who read in a distracting environment showed significantly lower levels of comprehension than those who read in a quiet environment (Kintsch & Keenan, 1973).

Students must actively read and eliminate distractions to improve their literal comprehension skills. Strategies such as note-taking, summarizing, and asking questions while reading can help students actively engage with the text and improve comprehension.

Comprehension Strategies

Several comprehension strategies can help improve literal comprehension, including:

  • Summarizing: This involves restating the main ideas of a text in one’s own words. By summarizing, one can check their understanding and ensure grasping the most essential concepts.
  • Questioning: Asking questions as one reads can help readers stay engaged and focused. Try asking questions about the text  “What is the author trying to say?” or “How does this relate to what I already know?”
  • Visualizing: Creating mental images of the ideas presented in a text can help one better understand and remember them. Try to visualize key concepts and use diagrams or charts to organize information.

Fluency Improvement

Research has shown that reading fluency is a critical component of reading comprehension. According to a study by the National Reading Panel, students who read fluently can better comprehend what they read than those who do not. Fluency can be improved through various methods, including repeated reading, partner reading, and technology, such as audiobooks

A study published in the Journal of Literacy Research found that listening to audiobooks improves students’ reading fluency and comprehension. Furthermore, a study by the University of Maryland found that partner reading, in which students take turns reading aloud, also improved reading fluency and comprehension.


Research has shown that self-esteem can play a role in reading comprehension. For example, one published study found that students with higher self-esteem had better reading comprehension than those with lower self-esteem. In addition, another study published in the Journal of Reading Behavior found that students with higher self-esteem were more motivated to read and had better reading comprehension than those with lower self-esteem.

To boost self-esteem setting achievable goals is an effective strategy to boost self-esteem. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that celebrating small accomplishments can increase feelings of competence and confidence.

Finally, seeking positive feedback and support can also help boost self-esteem. For example, students who received positive feedback from their teachers had higher levels of self-esteem and academic performance than those who did not receive positive feedback. Similarly, a study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that social support from peers and adults was associated with higher levels of self-esteem in adolescents.

By implementing these researched-based tips and strategies, one can improve literal comprehension and be set up for success in school and beyond. Remember to read widely and regularly, pay attention and focus, and use comprehension strategies to deepen your understanding of texts.