As you read, and even before you start, try to understand what sort of text you are dealing with. This information is essential to understanding. You almost certainly know a lot more about the text than you give yourself credit for. The title, the format, the illustrations if there are any, will give you important clues.
The title is your first giveaway: it will probably tell you the subject of the text. together with the format, or layout, it may also give away the type of text (article, recipe, letter, etc.), information which you can use to understand the way it is organized more easily. See how much you can figure out about the following text (which is incomplete...).
Now use the Altavista translation service to get meanings for some of the words you didn't know. Just mark the above text, press Ctrl-C to copy, then click on the side menu to open the Altavista translation. Paste the text into the text box by clicking there and pressing Ctrl-V. Choose French to English from the drop down menu, and click Translate. Notice how you have to work on the translation proposed to get a decent English version.
Almost any accompanying illustration will help you understand the text better. Click on this one to go to the page it came from and see how much you understand of the text:
As we saw above, the title, the layout and even the shape of the text can help you decide what type of text you are dealing with. Is it a newspaper article, an editorial, a poem, a letter, a story? Once you know this, you have a different set of expectations. Stories are usually chronological, involve characters, descriptions, etc. Articles often begin with a summary sentence and use synonyms for the main subjects to avoid repetition. The layout of the text quoted above entitled Charlotte au chocolat et au café probably helped you decide on the text type, and this in turn helps with understanding.