Improve your reading comprehension in 5 steps

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Reading is essential to learning. It’s the best way to increase your knowledge and boost your vocabulary. The act of reading itself – whether in English or any another language – helps increase brain power. It activates neurons, creating new connections that help us focus and strengthen memory.

Here are a few tips to boost your love for reading as well as your comprehension:

  1. Read materials that are interesting to you

    Not everyone likes to read. The best way to get over this 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. You can opt for 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 meant for lower language levels will bore you. On the other hand, advanced 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. Consult your ESL teacher for suggestions or go to sites that have content in various language levels. Here are some suggestions:

    • 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 – Click on the “Reading” tab (on the top menu bar) to see various topics. You’ll find many articles under each topic. Read the text or listen to the accompanying audio version (available in different speeds).
    • 5 Minute English – This features Reading Comprehension tests (vocabulary and grammar) on various topics.
    • Canadian International – It has learning levels from beginner, intermediate (low and high) to advanced. The Business English section contains great materials on workplace communications.
    • BBC Learning English 6-Minute English – It contains short reading materials and dialogues as well as language exercises for Intermediate Level learners.
    • 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. Set a few minutes of quiet time to focus and just read. 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 become an activity that you will look forward to and enjoy everyday.

  4. Use the KWL method

    KWL stands for Know (what you already know), What (what do you want to know), and Learned (what did you learn?). Know more about this method from this video:

  5. Improve your reading skills, Learn English with Emma, EngVid

  6. Look words up

    Sometimes, guessing the meaning of words by context is hard. Use a dictionary instead. Keep a pencil and notebook beside you when you’re reading and write down words that are not familiar to you. 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. These apps are free. 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.

Article updated October 26, 2021.
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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