At first glance, reading may seem a learning skill which can be acquired with ease. However, reading requires very complex cognitive skills. For ESL students, particularly, proper reading skills are not only important in terms of the comprehension of the reading material but also for the ability to analyze texts and understand their messages. 

In this article, you can see a list of skills which are essential for the reading process.


In many cases when students have some idea of what the text will be about, they have fewer difficulties comprehending it. Elements that are most helpful for previewing are newspaper headlines or titles; images /photos, signal words and the format.  


Skimming is considered a speed-reading skill. While skimming the text the reader quickly jumps over it to get the main idea. It allows the reader to spot the part of the text which will be of immediate interest for the reader and they will need to read it more closely. For example, many students need to read long reports at work. By skimming the report, they can still follow the gist and stop when they find something of particular interest to them.

The teacher may deliver students several newspaper or magazine articles, give them 5 minutes to skim those articles and tell which one they remember better. Circling keywords and writing them down on the board will help students identify the word associations and see the main idea.  


Scanning, on the other hand, allows the reader to quickly search a text for a particular piece of information. Scanning is ideal when students need to find some specific information, for example, a phone number, the date of a historical event or the time their train is leaving. As a scanning activity in the classroom students may be given questions to answer after the reading, fill in the blanks.

Reading for Detail

Detailed reading, or intensive reading, is essential for fluent readers, means full comprehenson of the text with the goal of absorbing as much meaning from it as possible. This type of reading requires great mental effort and focus. This is a slower reading process that starts at the beginning of a passage and proceeds to the end, students should aim to understand about eighty percent of the information they read. 


Some students get the reading material better when they visualize the information with the help of mind maps or graphic organizers. Before reading a text, the teacher may ask the learners to visualize some parts from the text in this way helping them to better comprehend the reading. For example, if they are reading a newspaper article on the contaminated river, they may be asked to picture the river and its surroundings. 


After reading the text, students should be able to summarize what they’ve read. This may be a short oral summary or a full paragraph. The most important element of summarizing is getting the main idea of the material. Summarizing implies the ability to tell the main point of the reading material in a concise way. Learning organizers such as concept-mapping will help your students identify main ideas and subtopics in informational texts and summarize it effectively. By filling in the spaces provided, students will be able to understand its contents better. Imagine a text is about “The Olympic Games”. The teacher writes the topic “The Olympic Games” in a central box. Then, he/she discusses the ideas surrounding the topic. After that, the students identify the main points in every paragraph and actually write them in boxes surrounding the topic. For example:

  • Taking place every four years
  • First game held in Greece in 776 B.C or earlier
  • Summer and winter games
  • Critical reading

Read more about critical reading in this article.

If the learners follow reading skills and have consistent instruction on reading strategies,  they will be successful readers. 

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