Reading Strategies

1. “Let the Blurb Help You”

Strategy: Read the back cover to orient yourself to the book. Ask yourself, “What’s the structure of this text? What will be the most important issues this story deals with? What problems will the main character face?”

Lesson Language:

  • Text Structure: Figure out what kind of book you’re reading.  If it says “five wonderful stories…,” then you know you’re going to read a bunch of different stories in one book.  If it’s a summary of one story, then you know the whole book will be one story.
  • Main Problem: Look for key phrases like “Find out what happens when (character) has to deal with…” or “(character) has a lot to be unhappy about…” that will highlight the problem(s).
  • Theme: Sometimes the book’s blurb (or the review quotes) will come right out and tell you what some of the important ideas in the book might be: “A heartwarming story about (theme) and (theme).”


  • Read the blurb.
  • What information in the blurb will help?
  • What will the structure of the book be, based on what you read?
  • Do you have any ideas about the main problem the character will face?
  • Let’s talk about what a theme in this book might be, based on the blurb.
  • You got a lot of information from this back cover blurb!

2. Does the Story Have to Be Set There, and Then?

Strategy: Think about the setting of the story.  Consider if the setting is just background, or if it plays an important role in the story.  One way to do this is to think, “If the story were set someplace else, or at a different time, how would the story be any different?” Then think, “Based on the setting the author has chosen, what impact does the setting have on the story?”

Lesson Language: Sometimes authors think about the setting of the story almost as a character. By that, I mean that the setting has significance and plays an important role in the story.  The setting may affect the characters, or it may even be symbolic in some way.


  • Describe the setting
  • Imagine the story in a different place. How would it go?
  • Do you think there is any symbolism in the setting?
  • Is the setting an historical place and/or time?
  • How is the setting important?

3. Two-Sided Problems:

Strategy: Think about the main problem and also how the character feels as a result of the problem.  This will help you think about different sides to the main problem. Think, “How do the internal and external problems connect?” and “How do they help the story move forward?”

Lesson Language: Main Problem and the Main Character’s Feelings


  • What is the main problem?
  • Describe the character’s reaction to the problem.
  • Those are events; what’s the character’s reaction?
  • How do those problems connect?
  • What events have happened because of those problems?

4. Character Comparisons:

Strategy: Think of two characters.  Think of categories you’ll use for comparisons (some ideas are: traits, how they handle challenges, likes and dislikes, interests, change, lesson learned).  Explain what’s similar within each category and/or what’s different.

Lesson Language: To compare two characters, it’s helpful to think in categories.  In most stories, authors develop characters to have traits, they have a challenge or obstacle or problem, they are forced to respond to the problem, and they change over time. Writing about each of these aspects of the characters side by side will help you to understand them each as individuals even better.


  • Think about the words you’d use to describe your character.
  • What problem does your character encounter?
  • What’s similar and different about your character’s appearance?
  • What interests does each character have?
  • Think about the categories you can use to compare.
  • Compare each character at the beginning when they come to a problem.  How do they respond?
  • Look back across your comparisons.  Describe the similarities and differences.
  • From all you’ve written, what seems most important when comparing these characters?