Comprehending Fiction: What Is Fiction?

how-to-increase-reading-comprehension-in-adultsFiction is imaginative narrative in any form that is designed to entertain, as distinguished from writing which is designed primarily to explain and describe. Fiction is found in many literary forms.

I am currently working with Best GED classes as a test writer and helping GED students, I think it’s important they understand how to distinguish between genres and how to read comprehensively.

What Are Some of the Forms (Genres) of Fiction?

  • Picture Books–the story is presented through a combination of text and illustrations. A variety of art is found in the illustrations from woodcuts to collages, photographs, and watercolors. The illustrations and the text work together to establish the mood and theme.
  • Folklore–represents the literary heritage of humankind. Variety in folklore includes traditional stories, myths, legends, nursery rhymes, and songs from the past.
  • Fantasy–under this classification are the imaginative worlds and make-believe. Stories that are set in places that do not exist, about people and creatures that could not exist, or events that could not happen.

  • Science Fiction– stories about what might occur in the future. These stories are usually based on taking physical laws and scientific principles to their logical outcomes.
  • Realistic Fiction–stories based on events that could happen in the real world where the characters and the problems that they face seem real and can be related to by the reader. Realistic fiction is set in modern times.
  • Historical Fiction–stories set in the past that portray character and events that actually did or possibly could have occurred. Plot and character are developed within an authentic historical setting.
  • Multicultural books–books that portray diverse groups of people accurately, while demonstrating the common humanity that connects all human beings. These books help the reader appreciate similarities and celebrate the uniqueness of cultural groups.


    • Reading for enjoyment.
    • Increasing fluency and comprehension in children who love to read and do read.
    • Fostering imagination.
    • Providing good language models from books to help form the language that children use in their own speaking and writing.
    • Helping children create connections to their lives and to other books and to the world.
    • Broadening thinking and looking at multiple viewpoints.
    • Identifying with characters that reinforce and help construct personal values.
    • Creating an understanding of cultures and worlds other than one’s own.

Skills and Strategies Needed to Comprehend Fiction

  • Guiding comprehension, recalling, and retelling by using the major elements in a story— “story grammar
    setting — problem — events — character — goals — resolution
  • Connecting personally with literature–make associations between self and the characters and the problems in the story.
  • Being able to self-select literature at an appropriate reading and interest Level.
  • Reading actively (being engaged) and constructing meaning.
  • Recognizing authors and identifying genres.
  • Evaluating critically books by knowing the characteristics of high-quality literature.
  • Sharing responses to what they have read orally and visually.
  • Participating in book discussions and literature circles.
  • Being open to others’ interpretation of the story.
  • Developing a “love of reading” so that the reader can get “lost in a book.”


  • Significant adults in children’s lives must act as models by engaging in reading and sharing their pleasure of literature.
  • Read aloud to children.
    • Expose them to a variety of fiction genre.
    • Stretch their reading (read books to them that they can’t read yet on their own).
    • Model how reading sounds.
  • Share your joy and excitement by sharing new books you have read through
    book talks or just talking with children about favorite books.
  • Stay current with what is available in fiction reading for students
    read reviews, visit bookstores, talk to others librarians, colleagues,
    and younger and older readers (students a grade level or two above).
  • Facilitate discussions on books, students need to discuss with each other to deepen their understanding and enjoyment.
  • “Think aloud” while reading to children so they can hear how you engage with the story and question the author and make predictions and inferences.
  • Share with students parts of the text where you get a picture in your mind that helps you comprehend what the author is describing. Model visualizing.
  • Directly teach students the structure of a story, so they can use that structure as an aid to comprehending and recalling the story. Begin by mapping stories so they can see the pattern of story structure. For additional information see Teaching/Learning Activities: Story Mapping.
  • Help children to be actively engaged by asking them to make predictions at appropriate places in the story, and then to read to verify or revise predictions.
  • Allow children to read at an appropriate pace so they can problem solve and do some deeper processing of the story problem.
  • Encourage students to journal, write, and draw as a response to stories.