Readers are actively engaged with the text; they think about many things as they read to comprehend the text. For example, they do the following:

  • Activate prior knowledge
  • Examine the text to uncover its organization
  • Make predictions
  • Connect to their own experiences
  • Create mental images
  • Draw inferences
  • Notice symbols and other literary devices
  • Monitor their understanding

These activities can be categorized as reader and text factors (National Reading Panel, 2000). Reader factors include the background knowledge that readers bring to the reading process as well as the strategies they use while reading and their motivation and engagement during reading. Text factors include the author’s ideas, the words the author uses to express those ideas, and how the ideas are organized and presented. Both reader factors and text factors affect comprehension.

This table presents an overview of the two comprehension factors.

Type Factor Role in Comprehension
Reader Background Knowledge Students activate their world and literary knowledge to link what they know to what they're reading.
  Vocabulary Students recognize the meaning of familiar words and apply word-learning strategies to understand what they’re reading.
  Fluency Students have adequate cognitive resources available to understand what they’re reading when they read fluently.
  Comprehension Strategies Students actively direct their reading, monitor their understanding, and troubleshoot problems when they occur.
  Comprehension Skills Students automatically note details that support main ideas, sequence ideas, and use other skills.
  Motivation Motivated students are more engaged in reading, more confident, and more likely to comprehend successfully.
Text Genres Genres have unique characteristics, and students’ knowledge of them provides a scaffold for comprehension.
  Text Structures Students recognize the important ideas more easily when they understand the patterns that authors use to organize text.
  Text Features Students apply their knowledge of the conventions and literary devices used in texts to deepen their understanding.