Using Literary Texts to Teach Reading Comprehension

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  • 0:04 Reading Comprehension
  • 1:03 Selecting Texts
  • 1:41 Read-Alouds
  • 2:51 Book Groups
  • 3:30 Independent Reading
  • 4:19 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Comprehension is one of the major elements of reading, and in order to get students to improve their comprehension, you need to present them with good reading material. This lesson will acquaint you with the use and benefits of literary texts.

Reading Comprehension

Mr. Snyder is frustrated with the kinds of reading material his third-grade students are exposed to. It seems like all of the curricular packages he gets presented with are either filled with non-fiction or they contain short passages that are conducive to test preparation but maybe not much else. Many of his students are strong readers, but when they choose books on their own, they are sort of lost. Some love graphic novels, and others are hooked on a particular series. Still, Mr. Snyder wants to introduce his readers to literary texts. These are fictional texts with interesting language, quality plots, and complex character development that can appeal to readers on concrete as well as abstract levels.

Mr. Snyder is convinced that as his students get involved with more literary texts, their comprehension, or ability to understand and make inferences about reading, will improve. Literary texts offer challenges and opportunities for critical thinking that are not always available in less nuanced works.

Selecting Texts

Mr. Snyder knows that the first step in introducing literary texts for teaching comprehension is selecting the right texts. He also knows that an invaluable resource for text selection is his school librarian. His librarian reminds him that when he chooses books, he should:

  • Keep his students' interests and abilities in mind
  • Keep an eye out for diverse characters and authors
  • Look for Newbery and Caldecott award winners
  • Choose a mixture of classic and contemporary texts
  • Remember that there is no such thing as one book that will appeal to every single child
  • Make good use of the internet for suggestions from parents and other teachers


Mr. Snyder decides that the read-aloud is the perfect context for introducing his students to literary works. He offers his students three choices of novels and allows them to debate and then vote on their class read-aloud. They select a book called Love, Ruby Lavender, by Deborah Wiles. Mr. Snyder prepares them for the experience of a literary read-aloud by previewing vocabulary, or introducing his students to new words they are likely to encounter as they read. The vocabulary in literary texts is often quite advanced and new, and of course, vocabulary development is a significant part of comprehension.

As Mr. Snyder begins the novel, he helps his students create webs describing the characteristics and habits of each of the main characters. Understanding character motivation and behavior is another important part of comprehension, and literary texts often have complex characters who make for interesting class discussion. Another strategy Mr. Snyder uses while reading aloud literary texts is asking his students to stop and jot their own ideas as he reads, or turn and talk to their partner. This encourages students to think critically about the plot and ask open-ended questions that help advance their comprehension.

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