Improve your reading comprehension in 5 steps

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A big part of learning English is reading. Reading improves our vocabulary and helps us get used to sentence patterns. These are the building blocks to language proficiency and develops other language skills as well. The more we read, the more we learn new words and the better we understand and speak the language. And when we understand the language better, this translates to better performance in our everyday tasks. For example, we perform our jobs better when we understand instructions, reports or business correspondences; we make better use of information that we get from news and current events; and if you’re a student, you do better when you understand text in all your class subjects.

The very act of reading – whether in English or any another language – actually helps increase brain power. Reading exercises the brain and helps activate neurons and build new connections that not only helps us focus and concentrate, it strengthens memory.

Here are a few tips to boost your reading comprehension:

  1. Get reading materials that are interesting to you

    Let’s be honest. Not everyone likes to read. The best way to get over this hurdle is to choose reading materials that are in line with your interests. There are thousands of materials that can cater to your mood, interest or hobby. They have varied lengths as well. There are magazines, short stories, poems, novels, graphic novels, even comics. Choose what motivates and excites you. Go to your nearest library and ask for the librarian’s help. They would be more than happy to suggest great materials you can try.

  2. Start at your level

    Reading materials that are meant for lower language levels will bore you. On the other hand, advanced reading materials can frustrate you. This is why it’s important to read according to your language level. To know your level, check your IELTS scores or go to WELARC to get your CLB for free. You can ask your ESL teacher for suggestions on what to read or go to sites that offer materials appropriate for various language levels:

    • Livelearn – Learn English while learning about Manitoba. Articles are for 5+ and CLB 3-4 translations.
    • CCMD Language and Reading Companion – Features college-level text for reading and listening.
    • Many – The”Reading” tab (on the top menu bar) offers various themes containing articles. Choose to read the text or listen to the accompanying audio version in different speeds.
    • 5 Minute English – Go to the Reading Lessons tab for exercises to boost your comprehension.
    • Canadian International – The learning levels are beginner, intermediate (low and high) and advanced. It has a Business English section for learning conversation used in the workplace.
    • BBC Learning English 6-Minute English – Contains short reading materials and dialogues with language exercises for Intermediate Level.
    • Book suggestions for intermediate to advanced learners (from EngVid): Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon, Fallen by David Maine, and Wonder by R.J. Palacio (watch the video from the EngVid link to know more about these books).
  3. Make it a habit

    Make reading a part of your everyday life. Allot a few minutes of quiet time to focus and just read. Maybe you can make a cup of tea and light a few candles to create a relaxing atmosphere. Aside from improving your English skills, the activity can help you de-stress and relax. It will be an activity that you will look forward to everyday.

  4. Use the KWL method

    Learn about KWL from this video: Improve your reading skills from Learn English with Emma EngVid):

  5. Look words up

    Sometimes, guessing the meaning of words by context can be hard. The best way to know the meaning is by looking them up in a dictionary. Keep a pencil and notebook beside you when you’re reading. Note down words you do not know. Note the page number where you found the word or mark it by using a highlighter (do this only if you own the book!). After finding the meaning of the word, go back to that part of the book and re-read the sentence where it was used.

    If you don’t like stopping to take down notes, get an e-reader like Kindle and download pop-up dictionary apps like Google Quick Dictionary or U-Dictionary. Many of these apps are free to download. Simply click or copy difficult words and search the meaning. You can store the words for review later. Some apps can even also show you translations of words to other languages.

Sources: How to improve reading comprehension: 8 expert tips, Courtney Montgomery, PrepScholar; What does reading do to your brain? These 5 effects are pretty astounding, Sadie Trombetta, Bustle; and Improve your English through reading, Josef Essberger, English Club. Accessed December 3, 2018.

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