Many of us enjoy reading as a hobby, which can include books but also magazines and comics. For children, reading and listening to stories plays an important role in improving their language skills. For you as an adult language learner, reading a story in English can bring similar benefits. Here are some more details about the benefits of reading, some tips about what kind of English book to choose and how to go about reading it.
The benefits of reading
For students learning English as a second language, reading is a great help. Seeing words you have already studied will help you remember them. Seeing new words in context will help you learn new vocabulary. And seeing grammatical structures that you have studied will help you consolidate your understanding. Reading really represents an excellent opportunity to confirm your comprehension of what you already know and widen your knowledge further.
What should I read?
Choosing the right thing to read is fundamental. If you choose something too difficult, you’ll quickly get blocked and feel frustrated. On the contrary, if it’s too easy you’ll get bored. In both cases you risk losing motivation. So ideally you want to find something that is right for your level – not too hard and not too easy.
When you choose a book to read, you don’t have to get the original version, unless you’re at an advanced level. There are a wide range of books available that are aimed at English learners, starting from beginners moving up to intermediate level and to advanced. Many of these books include a glossary and some simple fun exercises to do as well.
We also recommend choosing something modern with practical everyday language that you will able to use yourself at work and on holiday. Reading old important works of literature, such as a play by Shakespeare, is interesting but not very useful for your daily needs.
Remember that you don’t necessarily need to read fiction. Any non-fiction book is also very useful if that’s what you prefer, such as a book on history, nature or a travel guide. Nowadays you can also find a lot of free reading material and eBooks available online. Reading an eBook has the benefit of letting you click on new words to see their meaning with an online dictionary.
As an alternative to books, you might prefer to read comics or magazines. These can be fun and may be more stimulating for you if you have a particular area of interest, e.g. technology, sport, or economics.
Tips for reading
When you first read in English you may find it’s a little difficult at first. So here are some suggestions to make it easier:
A little at a time – reading two or three pages is fine. You don’t have to read several chapters in one day.
Be constant – try to read a little but frequently. Ten minutes a day of extra practice in English is much more useful than an hour every two weeks.
Don’t translate everything – if you start looking up the meanings of every new word you find, you’ll never finish a chapter. Try to limit yourself to finding the meaning of one or two important words that reappear and that block your understanding. And try reading the English definition and only check the translation into your native language if you still can’t understand the meaning.
Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything – remember that there will be some phrases you won’t know but it doesn’t matter. Your objective can be to try to understand 70% of the text, which is more than enough to get the general meaning.
Find something that interests you – it can be quite difficult to find sufficient motivation to read a book in English, so you need to do everything you can to increase your chances of sticking at it. A good way to do this is to choose a book with a topic that really interests you. For this reason, you may prefer non-fiction, for example a biography of your favorite actor, or a guide to a city you want to visit.
Reading will definitely help you improve your English, so make a start today and find something right for you.