By Rachel Rowland (ABC School’s Academic Coordinator)
Reading is one of the best ways to improve your English language skills and widen your vocabulary. You should choose to read about topics that interest you and try to read books, magazines, newspaper stories and articles that will maintain your interest on a daily basis. If you read depending on your interests and read for pleasure, you will become more fluent in no time at all. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
There are books available that are written for particular levels of English and these are called graded readers. The language is graded for vocabulary, complexity of grammar structures and also by the number of words. They are provided for all levels of English from beginners through to advanced. The main benefit of graded readers is not having to stop every minute to look up unknown words in a dictionary. Graded readers do not have complex or unfamiliar vocabulary, contexts or grammar. If you tried to read a regular book, there would be so many unfamiliar words which would hinder your enjoyment. In a graded reader, the language chosen is level appropriate and is based around a general core vocabulary that you would have met in your English class. Graded readers are available at all good book shops, including Foyles and WH Smith and are also available to buy online. Take a look at the Oxford University Press and Macmillan websites as they have many retold versions of popular classics as well as specially written stories to choose from. Most come with audio CDs too!
There are some who say that reading tabloid newspapers is not useful for students. I have to disagree with those people! Although tabloid newspapers, such as ‘The Sun’ are not academic, they do contain a lot of every day language, such as phrasal verbs, which can be very useful for students. Tabloid language will make your communication with other English speakers so much easier. Think about it like this, what kind of conversations are you involved in on a regular basis – normal, everyday chats or highly intellectual discussions? Reading tabloid newspapers will keep you up to date on current affairs and will give you interesting topics to speak to your friends about. There will more than likely be words that are unfamiliar to you, so it’s a good idea to carry a highlighter pen or regular pen with you. As a student of English, you should have a pen in your bag anyway, right? Whilst on a bus or train, you could read an article that interests you and highlight any language that you don’t know or can’t work out from the context. When you get home, you could look them up in your dictionary. Make sure you use the newly acquired words and phrases in conversations so that they are added to your active English vocabulary. After all, what’s the point in learning new expressions if you’re not prepared to use them in speech! If you are serious about your English fluency improvement, you have to speak, and finding inspiration in tabloid newspapers could make all the difference for you. Imagine being able to participate in daily conversations and comment on things people are interested in, such as politics, celebrity gossip and sport!
The resources available online are endless. There are so many benefits to reading content online, including being able to learn at your own pace and having your learning style catered for. Some people prefer to see the written words and have the audio playing at the same time. There are websites that offer both visual and auditory support to learners. These sites will provide graphics and sound to help your pronunciation of words and phrases. In addition, there is more to reading than just vocabulary building, so when looking for websites to help improve your reading, choose wisely. You should attempt to find websites that not only offer vocabulary lists and vocabulary building resources, but also those that explain their usage in sentence structures. Some good links for helping you to improve your reading are:
The variety of reading materials available for students these days is incredible. All you have to do, is find a little time each day to read something that interests you and you will see rapid improvements within your English. As the great Dr. Seuss once said “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”