Research-Based Reading Strategies

Books afford children an opportunity to learn about themselves, other people, and the world they live in. By reaching for a book, a child builds essential life skills, including curiosity, focus, empathy, and analytical thinking. A passion for reading prepares children for the future; thus, parents and educators should help children foster a love of reading from an early age. For years, research-based reading strategies have proved especially effective by training children to ask the right questions, solve problems, and embrace courageous thinking.

This article will explore two, layered research-based reading strategies that parents can implement at home as school teachers reinforce them in the classroom:

  • Ask questions that reveal interest
  • Promote engaged learning while monitoring comprehension

The Importance of Research-Based Reading Strategies

For years, children learned to read by passively watching as teachers drew letters on the board, then practicing phonics and memorizing sight words. Teachers chose which books to read aloud, and they assigned the books that children would read on their own. By contrast, research-based reading instruction focuses on students’ interests, inviting them to take ownership of their own education.

In traditional settings, it can be challenging to motivate students to read unless they have a vested interest in the assignment. Children frequently have different learning styles and preferences, which makes research-based reading strategies more appealing. Attentive teachers, then, listen carefully as students express their curiosity about a topic; educators can build on the child’s sense of wonder and encourage the child to explore topics together.

Research-based reading strategies begin with listening and asking questions. When children have time and opportunity to investigate subjects that spark their imagination, reading becomes an adventure, rather than a chore.

King School introduces proven, research-based reading strategies in the Lower School, and they continue to reinforce these techniques throughout the Middle and Upper Schools, preparing the student to enter college as a young adult.

At King School, we affirm students at every stage, getting to know them as individuals and offering support and encouragement. As a result, students develop confident, courageous thinking, which empowers them to explore new things and take risks. Classmates and teachers, then, become trusted collaborators, mentors, and sounding boards.

King’s students benefit from an innovative academic program that allows them to apply research-based reading strategies for projects that address real-world problems in the fields of healthcare, the environment, and social justice, to name a few. For instance, Wafa Nomani ’21 secured an internship at the prestigious Memorial Sloan Kettering  Cancer Center in New York City, after working on cumulative science fair projects that demonstrated her interest in, and commitment to, medical research.

Research-Based Reading Strategies Prepare Students for Life

During their transition from PreKindergarten into Lower School, then into Middle and Upper Schools, students must learn to decode and engage increasingly complex texts. They should be able to draw from a growing vocabulary and knowledge they gained from reading a wide range of materials, including biographies, historical narratives, and various textbooks.

Reading proficiency builds confidence and typically results in increasing success. Yet, authentic learning extends beyond grades to include the individual’s interests, indicating an ability to think broadly, deeply, and passionately.

Dr. Victoria Schulman, Director of Science of Science Research at King School, refers to the book, In Search of Deeper Learning by Jal Mehta and Sarah Fine, which says that employers in the 21st century want to hire creative people who can solve complex problems and think critically. Research-based reading strategies build each of these skills as they foster collaboration and communication.

We want to empower students so they begin to think like historians, literary critics, artists, and world travelers. The International Literacy Association says that reading like a historian, for example, means that a student combines “corroboration, analysis of multiple perspectives, questioning historical claims through evidence, determining importance, contextualizing sources, and summarizing and sequencing events.”

Research-based reading strategies also enable students to think like mathematicians, scientists, and computer programmers as they tackle abstract concepts and interpret mathematical or scientific language through their unique “texts” or “sentences.”

At King, research-based reading strategies prepare students for careers that require innovative, nimble thinking. For instance, our integrated STEM program invites students to explore the interconnectedness of five disciplines: Digital Literacy, Science, Computer Science, Math, and Sustainability. By applying research-based reading strategies to all disciplines, students develop their creativity and hone precise problem-solving skills, as well as critical thinking.

Recommended Research-Based Reading Strategies

While effective research-based reading strategies boost comprehension, they also help students actively retain and apply essential information because students have time and opportunity to explore topics they care about.

Students of all ages can adapt research-based strategies to help them succeed in school and life, which is why we recommend the following strategies:

1. Ask questions that reveal interest

Students drive research-based education, and their teachers facilitate the learning experience; thus, it is imperative that students ask questions and share observations that indicate their interest in a subject.

Students might begin by asking themselves a simple question: “What do I already know about the subject?”

By establishing prior knowledge, the student and teacher can work together to create an educational experience that builds reading skills, while sparking the imagination. Here are two examples:

  • A child notices that maple leaves change color in autumn but does not know why. The teacher can craft a targeted lesson to help the student explore the effect of temperature, light, and water on trees during various seasons.
  • Older students tend to ask more abstract questions about social responsibility, so parents and educators should give them books, projects, and assignments that give them a framework by which they can explore a topic in-depth, often as part of a group. For instance, a student in Grade 10 at King School might start by reading a book, like Night by Elie Wiesel. Although the student may know basic facts about World War II, he or she may not know how survivors of trauma cope with grief. Research-based reading combines familiarity with a subject, like World War II, with empathetic curiosity about endurance and courage.

By starting with questions, students add to their knowledge with reading and research. In the meantime, they begin to formulate new questions that lead to further discovery and self-reflection.

Here are a few examples related to Homer’s famous epic, The Odyssey, which King students read in Grade 9:

  • What do I know about the Trojan War? (Prior knowledge)
  • Although Odysseus is a great warrior on the battlefield, he cannot use the same tactics to overcome monsters and deities on his way home. What strategies does he use? (Combining prior knowledge with observations from thoughtful reading)
  • What have I learned about leadership and humility after reading The Odyssey? How might the lessons from this epic impact the way I think about courage and honor? (Combining textual observation with self-reflection)

When students employ research-based reading strategies, they interact with the text, then springboard into an exploration of related topics, such as a study of royalty or a survey of timeless stories that help children cope with loss and uncertainty.

By applying research-based reading strategies, students also ask themselves questions that draw information from other parts of their reading, or from similar works.

  • For example, a student might study Thomas Edison’s contributions to science and wonder who influenced his research. The student's curiosity would point him or her to the work of Warren de La Rue and Joseph Swan.

King’s primary commitment to the student experience shapes our approach to courses and activities within and outside the classroom.

At King, students of all ages enthusiastically engage in learning because they have a chance to influence their reading assignments. For instance, one eighth-grade student told an audience that he chose one of ten books to read in his English class. Then, he developed a list of questions about topics he wanted to research more thoroughly; he decided to research negative stereotypes and their stigmas.

2. Promote engaged learning while monitoring comprehension

Sometimes, a student’s eye travels across a page, and the student recognizes words or phrases, but he or she misses the key concepts, plot changes, or nuances of language. The goal of research-based reading strategies is to spark curiosity and inspire courageous thinking.

Any time a student reads a text, he or she should periodically check for understanding by asking a few questions:

  • What is my goal when I read? What do I want to discover about this topic?
  • How can I adapt to the pace of my reading so that I can process and recall what I read? How can I enhance my reading experience?

  • How might I paraphrase what I just read? For instance, after reading about photosynthesis, what could I do to help me visualize the stages of this natural process? Which parts of the process captured my attention?
  • What skills or tools do I need to help me understand technical or unfamiliar terms that I encounter in the text? How will a healthy vocabulary help me express my thoughts and ideas more clearly?
  • What “clues” in the text can help me identify transitions in a passage? For instance, where does the author introduce a new character? Where does a plot shift occur? How do transitions help writers build suspense or boost an argument? How could transitions improve my writing?
  • Where should I look if I still have unanswered questions about the topic? For instance, I know that the author discusses “real numbers” in chapter 3. How might previewing the next chapter about “linear equations” help me solidify my understanding of concepts from chapter 3?
  • How can I incorporate visual tools to help me make connections in the reading? I know that diagrams, charts, graphs, and mind-maps use illustrations or representations to establish relationships between ideas. Since graphic organizers consolidate information, how can they help me write logical, orderly summaries? How can an art project help me reinforce ideas that I learned in another class?

Research-based reading strategies can apply to every academic discipline, including English, history, science, mathematics, technology, world languages, fine art, and social sciences, which is another reason this instructional approach is so effective.

For instance, our Lower School students embark on an extensive exploration of Central and South America through King’s Global Studies Program. The unit concludes with a student-led interactive museum, showcasing Central and South American cultures. By applying research-based reading strategies, our students develop a love of reading as they discover the beauty of cultural distinctiveness.

Embrace Research-Based Reading Strategies

The goal of research-based reading strategies is not simply the retention of information, although that is important. The primary goal is to engage students, so they begin to take ownership of their education. When students take an active interest in reading, they enter a world of discovery, which leads to collaboration and courageous thinking.

Learn More About King School 

King School is an independent, co-educational day school, serving students from PreKindergarten through Grade 12. The school encompasses 34 acres, 1 mile from the Merritt in Fairfield County, Connecticut. 


At King School, we seek more than achievement for our students. We open minds and spark courageous thinking. Every day, our students discover and forge their unique paths to excellence as we teach, guide, and cheer them on. By setting better standards for both the experience and outcomes of education, students cultivate the insights and heart to own their future.

Next Steps

If you want your child to become a curious, agile thinker, consider King School. Our outstanding program can open your child’s mind and spark courageous thinking.

Want to know more about the King experience? 

Contact us today!