Reading Comprehension is the ability to easily and efficiently read text for meaning. It is the last step of the reading process taught to children, after they’ve acquired phonological processing skills and learned phonics, fluency, and vocabulary.

Learn how to teach 5 different levels of reading comprehension to your children.

The 5 Steps to Learning to Read:

  1. Phonological Awareness
  2. Phonics
  3. Fluency
  4. Vocabulary Development
  5. Reading Comprehension

Lexical Comprehension

Understand key vocabulary in the text.

  • Preview vocabulary before reading the story or text
  • Review new vocabulary during or after reading the text

Literal Comprehension

Answer Who, What, When and Where questions.

  • Look in the text to find the answers written in the story.
  • Ask questions from the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

Interpretative Comprehension

Answer What If, Why, and How questions.

  • Understand “facts” that are not explicitly stated in the story.
  • Use illustrations to infer meaning.

Applied Comprehension

Relate story to existing knowledge or opinion.

  • Ask questions that have no right or wrong answer.
  • Challenge children to support their answers with logic or reason.

Affective Comprehension

Understand social and emotional aspects.

  • Preview social scripts to ensure understanding of plot development.
  • Connect motive to plot and character development.


To really understand these different levels, let’s take a familiar text and see how different types of questions probe different understandings of the same story.

The fairy tale Cinderella tells the story of a young girl, whose evil stepmother won’t let her go to the ball. Cinderalla’s fairy godmother, however, magically whisks her off for the night and Cinderella eventually marries her Prince Charming.


5 Levels of Comprehension Questions for the Cinderella Story

Lexical Comprehension

  • What does “enchanted” mean?
  • What words are most like “enchanted”: Magical or funny? Scary or special?

Literal Comprehension

  • Who was the girl who lost the glass slipper?
  • Where did Cinderella go to live at the end of the story?

Interpretative Comprehension

  • How did the pumpkin turn into a carriage?
  • What would have happened to Cinderella if she hadn’t lost her slipper?

Applied Comprehension

  • Do you think Cinderella was wrong for going to the ball after her stepmother told her she couldn’t go?

Affective Comprehension

  • What do you do when you’re disappointed because you cannot do something fun? Is that how Cinderella reacted?

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Last modified on September 29, 2023