Reading First defines reading comprehension as the thinking processes used to obtain meaning from print, media, or graphic communications. Reading First legislation also clearly states that "comprehension is the reason for reading" (NICHD, 2000, p. 48) and that all students should become good comprehenders by Grade 3. The qualities of a good comprehender, and the evidence-based instruction that best supports their development, have been identified through 38 high-quality studies reviewed by the the National Reading Panel.
The panel found that even the youngest readers should be taught how to comprehend by connecting their thinking processes to the text and their own knowledge, expectations and purposes for reading. The quality of a teacher's instruction as well as each lesson's instructional goal influences how much students learn. When excellent teaching occurs in the classroom, teachers, administrators, students and parents should recognize that pupils are reading text with understanding, constructing memory, making mental cognitive representations of what they understand, and putting new understandings to use when they communicate with others.