Reading proficiency is a critical endeavour as it transcends and includes all learning. This study set out to establish the reading comprehension level of Form 2 learners in Bulawayo Central District high schools in Zimbabwe, and to find out what factors determine the reading proficiency level of the same learners. These learners were thought to have been previously disadvantaged during Zimbabwe’s economic downturn of 2006 to 2008. The researcher used quantitative and qualitative methods to gather information to answer the research questions. Forty-eight and 22 learners from government and private schools respectively, voluntarily wrote a comprehension test to answer the first research question, completed a questionnaire to answer the second research question on factors that influenced their reading proficiency and wrote narratives on their reading development. Twelve and nine teachers from government and private schools respectively, voluntarily completed questionnaires to provide answers to the second research question. The comprehension test revealed differences in the reading comprehension level of the learners. The mean performance of private school learners stood at 91.64% compared to 36.63% for learners from government schools. Findings revealed that the reading comprehension level of Form 2 (Grade 9) learners at government schools is below that for Grade 4 (Zimbabwe and South Africa) yet the learners were in Form 2 (Grade 9). The t-test on learner questionnaires showed statistical significance of the home environment, socio-economic status (SES), and motivation as factors influencing reading practices. Private school teachers also indicated that home environment, SES, and motivation were factors in reading (ability and comprehension), unlike teachers in government schools who disagreed. Private school learners wrote strong narratives compared to those of government school learners, which were flawed with grammatical and spelling errors. The study hence revealed that reading performance lags behind in government school learners. Re-introduction of special classes, revival of public libraries and exchange and network programmes are recommended if learners at government schools are to be brought abreast of learners at private schools.