75 Essential Reading Skills

reading skills examples and definition, explained below

Reading is a complex task. It requires skills like:

  • Phonemic awareness: Ability to hear and read individual sounds.
  • Use of context clues: Ability to infer a word based on surrounding words and images.
  • Memorization: Ability to rapidly remember and recall words and phrases to read rapidly.

As we get better at reading, we develop more complex comprehension skills, such as:

  • Scanning: Reading over the words and phrases rapidly, seeking important information rather than reading every word.
  • Recognizing Purpose: Ability to infer an author’s purpose, such as to persuade, inform, or entertain.

Reading Skills Examples

1. Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness refers to the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate the individual sounds, or phonemes, in spoken words. This skill is crucial as a foundational step towards learning to read and spell.

Imagine you are teaching a child how to read. You start by introducing a word, say “cat”, and then divide it into its individual phonemes, “c-a-t”. By doing this, you are helping the child develop phonemic awareness, which is a vital step towards their ability to read and spell words on their own.

Read Also: The 4 Types of Phonics

2. Vocabulary Development

Vocabulary development speaks to the process of learning and using new words. This skill is crucial for reading comprehension as the more words you know, the more you can understand what you’re reading.

Let’s consider a scenario in a language learning environment. Your language teacher introduces new words every day and asks you to use them in a sentence. This not only helps you learn definitions but also how these words fit within different contexts. Doing so is a key part of vocabulary development.

3. Comprehension

Comprehension involves the ability to read and understand the information embedded in a text. This skill allows you to make sense of what you are reading and relate it to your existing knowledge.

Let’s take the example of a student who is reading a science textbook. They must not only read the words but also understand the concepts, theories, and ideas laid out in the text to successfully learn the subject material. This necessity of understanding the content to achieve meaningful learning is a perfect example of reading comprehension.

Read Also: 50 Comprehension Skills

4. Decoding

Decoding is the process of converting printed words into spoken words. This involves correlating the individual characters (or groups of characters) in a word to their corresponding sounds.

Imagine a child who is just starting to learn how to read. They see the written word “dog” and then sound out each letter individually – “d-o-g” – before combining the sounds to pronounce the word correctly: “dog”. This process of converting the written symbols into a spoken word is decoding.

5. Fluency

Fluency encompasses the speed, accuracy, and expression with which one reads. It’s a vital skill for effective and effortless reading.

A typical instance of fluency can be observed in proficient readers who read quickly and accurately, with proper intonation. This speed and accuracy allow these fluent readers to focus less on deciphering each word and more on comprehending the meaning of the entire text.

6. Making Predictions

Making predictions involve formulating ideas about what will happen in a text based on clues or details found within the text. This skill enhances engagement with the text and often boosts comprehension.

Imagine you’re reading a novel that follows a certain character as they try to solve a mystery. As you read, you use clues from the text to predict what you think is the resolution of the mystery. If you’re engaged enough to make these predictions, it is likely you’re comprehending the text effectively.

7. Retelling

Retelling is the process of recounting a story or information in your own words after reading a text. This skill helps to reinforce understanding and memory.

Consider a situation in which you read a fascinating article about the latest scientific discovery. Later, you discuss it with a friend, sharing the main ideas and details you remember. This act of recounting the article’s content in your own words is retelling.

8. Skimming

Skimming denotes the quick perusal of a text to understand its general idea. This skill is particularly useful when you want to quickly assimilate the central themes of a document without delving into the details.

As an example, imagine you’ve got a stack of reports to go through. You don’t need to analyze each report in depth entirely; instead, you simply want a gist of the content. By rapidly reading the titles, headings, and some sentences, you’re employing the skill of skimming.

9. Scanning

Scanning, unlike skimming, is the quick hunt through a text for specific details or information. This skill is essential when you need to locate a particular piece of information without reading the whole content.

Let’s say you are researching a topic, and you’ve got a book that you think contains relevant information. However, you don’t need to read the entire book, instead, you just need a particular detail. You’ll quickly move your eyes over the pages, searching for keywords or phrases related to your topic. This act is what we call scanning.

10. Recognizing Text Features

Recognizing text features refers to the ability to identify and comprehend the various elements that makeup and influence the layout, structure, and navigation of a text.

Think about the time when you pick a newspaper and immediately go to the sports section to check the latest scores. The fact that you know exactly where to find what you want is because you recognize the typical text features of a newspaper – headings, subheadings, body text, sidebars, pictures, captions, etc.

11. Using Context Clues

Using context clues alludes to the skill of using surrounding text or phrasing to derive the meaning of an unknown or unfamiliar word. This skill aids in understanding new vocabulary without having to resort to a dictionary.

To illustrate, imagine you are reading a book and come across a word that you have never seen before. Instead of immediately reaching for a dictionary, you read the sentences before and after the unfamiliar word. You then infer the meaning of the word from the overall context. This process of using context clues allows you to grasp the meaning of new or challenging words as you read.

12. Drawing Conclusions

Drawing conclusions refers to the ability to infer or deduce information that is not explicitly stated in a text. This reading skill allows you to make sense of a situation or idea based upon the details given within a reading passage.

Take for instance, you’re reading a novel where the protagonist is often described as looking nervously over their shoulder and locking their doors multiple times. Even if it’s not directly stated, you may conclude that the character seems to be afraid or paranoid. This mental leap based on given information signifies drawing conclusions.

13. Identifying Topic Sentences

Identifying topic sentences means recognizing the sentence in a paragraph that expresses the main idea. This skill is essential for understanding the purpose of each paragraph within the context of the whole text.

For instance, you’re reading an article. The first sentence of the third paragraph states, “Air pollution has dire effects on our health”. This sentence immediately lets you know that the following details will explain the relationship between air pollution and health. It signals the main idea the paragraph will explore, hence it is the topic sentence.

14. Evaluating Credibility of a Text

Evaluating the credibility of a text involves assessing the reliability and validity of the information provided within a piece of writing. It is a skill that helps determine whether the content is trustworthy and whether it stems from a reputable source.

Suppose you’re reading an online health article that suggests a revolutionary treatment for a chronic disease. Before accepting the claims, you check the author’s credentials, analyze any supporting evidence, and verify whether the arguments are coherent and logical. This systematic evaluation of the article’s credibility is an indispensable reading skill.

See More: Credibility Examples

15. Recognizing Themes across Texts

Recognizing themes across texts requires identifying common or recurring ideas or topics across different pieces of writing. This skill allows for comparison and contrast of texts and helps deepen understanding of key subjects and messages.

For example, suppose you’re studying the American Civil Rights Movement, and you read several articles, books, and speeches from that period. After a while, you notice recurring themes of resistance, equality, and justice in all these texts. Recognizing these repeated themes allows you to gain a deeper understanding of the mindset and values of that era.

Complete List of Reading Skills

  • Phonemic Awareness
  • Phonics
  • Decoding
  • Fluency
  • Vocabulary Development
  • Comprehension
  • Making Predictions
  • Inferring
  • Summarizing
  • Retelling
  • Identifying Main Idea
  • Recognizing Supporting Details
  • Drawing Conclusions
  • Making Connections (Text-to-Self, Text-to-Text, Text-to-World)
  • Visualizing
  • Skimming
  • Scanning
  • Recognizing Cause and Effect
  • Comparing and Contrasting
  • Sequencing
  • Identifying Author’s Purpose
  • Recognizing Fact vs. Opinion
  • Recognizing Literary Elements (e.g., plot, setting, characters)
  • Analyzing Poetry Structures (e.g., sonnet, haiku)
  • Recognizing Themes across Texts
  • Identifying Alliteration, Assonance, and Consonance
  • Analyzing Character Traits
  • Recognizing Point of View
  • Understanding Dialogue
  • Analyzing Setting’s Influence on Plot
  • Recognizing Text Features (e.g., headings, subheadings, captions)
  • Recognizing Symbolism
  • Interpreting Figurative Language
  • Recognizing Irony
  • Evaluating Arguments
  • Distinguishing between Relevant and Irrelevant Information
  • Recognizing Bias
  • Critical Thinking
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Synthesizing Information
  • Recognizing Text Structures (e.g., chronological, problem-solution)
  • Using Context Clues
  • Identifying Prefixes and Suffixes
  • Recognizing Root Words
  • Using Glossaries and Dictionaries
  • Using Indexes
  • Using Table of Contents
  • Interpreting Graphs, Charts, and Diagrams
  • Following Multi-step Instructions
  • Recognizing Mood and Tone
  • Analyzing Author’s Style
  • Evaluating Importance of Information
  • Recognizing Patterns of Organization
  • Identifying Theme
  • Identifying Transitional Words and Phrases
  • Recognizing Rhetorical Devices
  • Understanding Implicit and Explicit Information
  • Identifying Genre
  • Using Footnotes and Endnotes
  • Recognizing the Structure of a Paragraph
  • Identifying Topic Sentences
  • Recognizing Supporting Sentences
  • Identifying Concluding Sentences
  • Recognizing Sentence Variety
  • Identifying Types of Sentences (e.g., declarative, interrogative)
  • Recognizing Passive and Active Voice
  • Understanding Sarcasm and Humor
  • Recognizing Persuasive Techniques
  • Identifying Stereotypes and Generalizations
  • Recognizing Propaganda Techniques
  • Evaluating Credibility of a Text
  • Recognizing Denotation and Connotation
  • Identifying Hyperbole and Understatement
  • Recognizing Paradox and Oxymoron
  • Recognizing Rhyme and Rhythm


We learn reading skills from a young age. From the start, our parents and teachers help us to read through use of context clues, repetition, and memorization of vocabulary.

Second language learners, similarly, need to go straight back to basics, learning to read through memorization, contextualization, repetition, and phonetic decoding.

As language learners get more skilled, they start to learn more complex techniques such as recognizing irony and evaluating sources. We need these advanced skills, and even more – such as digital lieracy in order to read uniquely online texts – in order to successfully read and comprehend the words around us.

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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