Course Content
Private: BA Arabic
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Unit 3
Reading Comprehension

Learning Outcomes

Upon the completion of this unit, the learner will be able to:

  • identify the skills needed for an effective comprehension while reading
  • understand the processes included in reading comprehension
  • gain the practical knowledge of both textual and external elements in reading comprehension
  • comprehend the various types and ways of interpreting a text


Do you read well? Most individuals reply, “Oh, I read very well,” “Well, I enjoy all I read,” or “I don’t read too quickly, but that’s because I’m super cautious to not lose anything.” There are two components that determine how effectively you read: comprehension and reading speed. If you read really quickly, and yet are unable to comprehend the text, you might as well not have read it at all. Practically speaking, you have not read the text. On the other hand, if you read too slowly, you might never be able to finish what you start. It is possible that you won’t be able to read and learn everything that you need to. Hence, both reading fast and comprehensively are essential elements, especially for candidates who attend their school and university levels and other competitive examinations. This unit will help you to get to know some of the essential elements that you require for excelling in reading comprehension.

Key words

Reading, Comprehension, Interpretation, Annotation, Skills, Processes, Methods


It is entirely up to you how much you can develop your reading abilities. How much do you want to advance? Why do you think you should get better? How passionately will you work to achieve your objectives? How often will you use you to work toward reaching these objectives?
Some people believe that increasing reading proficiency is just for students or professionals. But many of these common people also struggle with the same issues. They cannot maintain the reading pace and comprehension they both need and want to. They frequently want to read correspondence, newspapers, magazines, and other sources, as well as leisurely reading. Many people desire to continue their hobbies or do higher studies, but they lack the time to complete the essential reading and study because of their poor reading skills. Others, being unsure about their ability to do so successfully, do not make the attempt.

Most people desire to learn more about the world around them, yet many do not have the time to read the daily news, and much less continue their education. If they improve their reading comprehension level,they could easily do the above-said needs. So, understanding the elements needed to improve reading comprehension level and practising them accordingly would benefit anyone who is willing to excel in this area.

2.3.1 What is Reading Comprehension?

Language enables the transmission of knowledge and ideas, and conveys meanings and viewpoints. When written communication is properly interpreted, reading can be a tremendous source of inspiration, fun, and transformation. Writing has the ability to transport readers to new settings, times and occasions. Texts can offer alternate viewpoints on the world; and they can “kindle” our imaginations to produce vivid mental pictures that may last a lifetime. Texts have the power to educate and advance our knowledge, teach us new words, and inspire fresh modes of thought. This chapter will explore the variety of written language and the complex procedures involved in reading by giving appropriate samples.

Let’s take a look at the following brief excerpt of an illustration of the richness of written language:

Jennie sprang bolt upright. Moments of disorientation followed before she recognised the now faded floral wallpaper and tatty matching curtains. Framed family faces stared down from the bookshelf. ‘Home for the holidays’ she remembered. Blinking and yawning she stumbled around for her slippers and gown. The tinny voice from the bedside table was delivering the news and warning of harsh winds and icy roads. Jennie reached across and hit the button. ‘Today is definitely a two sweater day,’ Jennie thought as she rifled around in her suitcase for her favourite winter clothing.

Upon interpreting the above passage, consider the following questions and think about them. Jennie sprang the bolt upright, but why? Where had Jennie gone? What could have caused her to feel confused? Whose faces are there in the framed family picture? Why did she freeze? Where did the thin voice originate? How did the button work? What did Jennie understand by a “two sweater day”? What exactly was Jennie doing with her bag?

Try to answer the above questions. Now read an annotated version of the above story excerpt in the following. In the annotation, we have added some primary thoughts that you may have while reading the content.

  • Jennie sprang bolt upright: Jennie may have suddenly awakened, be shocked, or be stunned. Jennie has her attention focused on something.
  • Moments of disorientation fol-lowed: She could be perplexed, perhaps. She might be at an unknown location.
  • …before she recognised the now faded floral wallpaper and tatty matching curtains: Although they were originally in good shape, they now appear worn and may be harder to identify.
  • Framed family faces…:The only faces that come to mind are those in pictures or artwork. Perhaps these depict Jennie’s family?
  • stared down from the bookshelf: Since people cannot fit on a book-shelf, the faces in the frames are probably not real.
  • “Home…: By using this term, it is further implied that the family faces belong to her family.
  • …for the holidays,” she remembered: She may not be in her regular residence because of the dis-orientation she is experiencing, and also because she is just there for the holidays. It can be related to one’s visit at parents’ house during holidays. Jennie may have grown up in this house.
  • Blinking and yawning…: This implies that she has just gotten out of bed.
  • she stumbled around: She might still feel disoriented or drowsy, which would make it harder for her to coordinate her movements when looking for these things.
  • …for her slippers and gown: Prob-ably not a ball gown or graduation gown, but a dressing gown?
  • The tinny voice from the bedside table…: The voice is not coming from the table because it is life-less and lacks a means of transmitting sound. It must come from something on the table, instead.
  • …delivering the news and warning of harsh winds and icy roads: The word ‘tinny’ gives the impression that a transmission, rather than a human voice, is being made. News can be delivered via telephone, television, or radio. Radios are frequently considered, like alarm clocks, as instrument to wake people up.
  • Jennie reached across and hit the button : Typically, you press buttons on machines rather than clothing. You can turn things on or off using these. The alarm clock may have the button.
  • “Today is definitely a two sweat-er day” : This means that she will wear two sweaters to stay warm due to the cold weather mentioned in the news report. Two sweaters would be warmer than one.
  • Jennie thought as she rifled…: When employed as a verb, “rifle” indicates to search. As opposed to the noun “rifle,” which is a gun, the word here has most likely the verbal meaning.
  • …around in her suitcase for her favourite winter clothing: She is searching for winter clothing, which indicates that the holidays she will be spending at home are in the winter, possibly for Christmas or New Year.

2.3.2 Skills for Reading Comprehension

The above annotation illustrates how difficult it is to comprehend textual content. This kind of conscious “think-aloud” activity draws our attention on elements of reading comprehension that could otherwise be disregarded. In the illustration, you can see how our comprehension of the text’s message increases as we read it. Later information validates our assumption, the context explains highly risky words, and prior knowledge based presumptions are challenged. However, the annotations barely scrape the surface of the meaning and there might also be some other interpretations relevant for the above excerpt.

The ability to recognise the words, the capacity to retain information, the competence to scan backward and forward to relevant words and phrases, and the comprehension of signals from sentence structure and punctuation among many other skills and processes, are required to make connections between parts of the passage in order to build up an interpretation. Such skills improve our reading comprehension ability.

Reading comprehension is a task that is only partially contained inside the text. The interaction between the text and the reader’s interpretation of it leads to a deep understanding. Each of us read a book differently, and as a result, we generate a variety of viewpoints upon a similar content. The movie versions of books we have read rarely live up to our anticipated versions. We can discover that we have read the same line very differently when we discuss what we have read with others. We can also discover that our interpretations conflict with the author’s intended message. Although complex and challenging to understand, these variations in human response and imagination are at the core of reading comprehension.

2.3.3 The process of interpretation

Three levels are used to characterise the processes involved in text interpretation. In the first level, which is the ‘linguistic’, the reader recognises and analyzes particular words and their meanings. The second method is called ‘microstructure’, and it requires the reader to understand and comprehend the content of bigger sections of text rather than just reading words alone. In the third level, the reader recognises and analyses themes, topics, and genre of the text, which is known as the ‘macrostructure’.

These three levels of categorization of reading comprehension form together a method called ‘textbase.’ The individual interpretation of the reader about the textual content is then integrated with the interpretation formed through the existing information or knowledge of the reader. That is, a ‘situation model’ is being developed here in which the readers at first obtain the meaning of the text only through the textual information. Then, the readers think beyond the textual meaning and integrate the textual meaning with general knowledge. This helps them to reach a personal or emotional level interpretation of the textual content.

We are inspired to read more when the subject we are reading is something we can fully comprehend and motivate us. Reading will be less enjoyable if comprehension is poor, which can result in spending only less time for reading, which will subsequently deteriorate reading abilities. Hence, the practice of reading is important to make it an enjoyable experience. Understanding how reading can change a person’s perspective and influence one’s capacity for learning is very important. While reading, we come across new phrases, ideas, and viewpoints that both test and broaden our understanding.


  • The richness of written language and its complexity require some practical and intellectual skills in reading comprehension.
  • There could be different types of annotation for a single content of text whether it is fiction or nonfiction
  • The skills required for a better understanding of a text are the ability to recognise the words, the capacity to retain information, the competence to scan backwards and forwards to relevant terms and phrases, and the comprehension of signals from sentence structure and punctuation
  • Both textual meanings and external factors like general perspectives and emotional factors also influence one’s reading comprehension skills.
  • The three levels of interpretation in the reading comprehension process are linguistic, microstructure and macrostructure.
  • These three levels of categorization of reading comprehension form together a method called textbase.
  • A ‘situation model’ is developed in the reading comprehension process in which the readers at first obtain the meaning of the text only through the textual information and then integrate these meanings with general knowledge and personal feelings.

Objective Questions

  1. What is the level of textual interpretation in which the reader recognises and analyses particular words and their meanings known as?
  2. What is the level of textual interpretation which requires the reader to under-stand and comprehend the content of bigger sections of text known as?
  3. What is the level of textual interpretation in which the reader recognises and analyses themes, topics, and genre of the text known as?
  4. The three levels of categorization of reading comprehension form together a method known as…
  5. What is the broad process of the reading comprehension explained in this unit known as?
  6. The interaction between the text and the reader’s interpretation of it leads to…
  7. What is the element that makes reading more enjoyable?
  8. In reading comprehension, the competence to …. backwards and forwards is very important.
  9. In reading comprehension, the comprehension of ….. from sentence structure and punctuation is very important.
  10. What is generated when we read a similar content many times?


  1. Linguistic
  2. Microstructure
  3. Macrostructure
  4. Textbase
  5. Situation model
  6. Deepened understanding
  7. Reading comprehension skills
  8. Scan
  9. Signals
  10. Variety of viewpoints


  1. What are the three levels involved in the textual interpretation?
  2. Read the following passage and answer the questions that follow.
    “For a long time, historians were primarily concerned with politics. Freeman, an English historian of the 19th century, defined history as “past politics”. Herodotus, the first great historian, neglected social and economic forces and over emphasised the personal element. Today students of history disagree as to which of the various phases is most important. The economic determinists claim that “the fundamental condition of all life is economic”, while the hero-worshippers and others think that the individual is all important. These are extreme points of view: the first is fatalistic, neglect ethical forces, and minimises the importance of great men; the second fails to recognise the fact that great men do not produce the age but are manifestations of it. The correct interpretation of history proceeds from the combination of the two in a modified form.” (An excerpt from J. E. Swain’s A History of World Civilisation)

Now, attempt the following questions:

  1. What, according to you, is the purpose of writing this passage?
  2. How do the author and the other historians differ in their approach to writing history?
  3. Whom do you support: the author or the other historians? Why?
  4. Can you prove your answer to Question no. 3?
  5. How would you reach the answers to the above questions?

Suggested Reading

  1. Clarke, Paula J., Emma Truelove, Charles Hulme and Margaret J. Snowing. Developing Reading Comprehension, John Wiley & Sons, 2014.
  2. Ostrov, Rick. Power Reading, The Education Press, California, 2002.
  3. Singh, Ajay. Proficiency in Reading Comprehension Simplifying the ‘Passage’ for You, Arihant Publications, 2018.
  4. Schoenbach, Ruth., Cynthia Greenleaf and Lynn Murphy. Reading for Under-standing, Wiley, 2012,