Did you know that reading is one of the fastest ways to fluency?
Reading even at a slow pace exposes us to more words per minute compared to let’s say, watching TV or a movie. This is probably why heavy readers tend to speak more articulately than those who are not well-read. Being exposed to a larger “brain feed” of vocabulary and grammar trains you to use the language better in your own speech.
Reading basically helps us grow more comfortable with words and the grammatical rules of the language. Seeing words and how they are strung together helps visually reinforce our memory of them. It’s even better when we stop, think and look up words in the dictionary. This is called intensive reading. It allows for a more individualized pace of mental absorption.
Even reading for pleasure (as opposed to intensive reading) has many benefits – research finds that it can result in increased empathy, improved relationships with others, reductions in the symptoms of depression and dementia, and improved wellbeing.
3 steps to get into a reading habit:
Choose a good book/material
- Find a material that you enjoy – Choose one that lines up with your interests. It should be a topic or genre that excites you and activates your curiousity. It doesn’t even have to be a book. If a novel is too much of a commitment for you, start with shorter pieces like news or magazine articles, poems, short stories or graphic novels. Work your way up to longer materials gradually.
- Find something in your level – Reading materials in your language level will help you get the most out of the experience because you’ll be able to fully understand it. When you understand something, you’re more likely to enjoy it. Read Improve your reading comprehension in 5 steps for suggested sites containing items written in various language levels.
- Ask your librarian or ESL teacher for suggestions – Ask the experts when you can’t choose. They will know the best materials for you and will be happy to share what they know.
Watch this video to get tips on how to read the smart way:
The reading strategy every English learner needs to know (step-by-step guide), To Fluency
Read at the same time every day
Read at the same time every day but not too close to bedtime – you might fall asleep right away or not get any sleep at all if you get engrossed in the story. If you’re busy, spending 10-15 minutes reading on your breaks will help start the habit. Make it more pleasurable by getting a cup of tea (or coffee) and setting up in a comfortable and quiet nook. This will make you look forward to the activity every day.
Join a reading club
If reading by yourself is not engaging enough for you, this is a surefire way to boost your interest. A reading or book club is a social and fun way to engage with the material. Participants share ideas, discuss important points in the story, and ask questions. Discussions can shift your perspective or help you understand points that you might not have on your own. You’ll also meet interesting people and improve your conversational skills!
If you want to try it out, you can join Live&Learn’s Reading Club. We discuss a new short story every week. Those who would like to read an entire book might want to join the Advanced Reading Club (ideal for language level CLB 6 and up). Members read and discuss a book for 10 weeks (the commitment is to read about 15-20 pages/week). Check out the poster below for schedules. Register online or send us an email for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Sources: 14 ways to cultivate a lifetime reading habit, Leo Babauta, Life Hack; Reading is one of the best ways to learn a language, Brainscape; and Why is reading for pleasure important? Laura Venning, The Reading Agency. Accessed February 2, 2021.
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