We have already written about why reading books is important in general. We have also talked about why reading books (and other materials) in English is beneficial especially if you are keen on improving your English and becoming a better and more confident user of it.
Now that we’ve established that exposure to a foreign language, and what better way than through the magical world of words, is absolutely essential to your journey towards becoming a proficient speaker of it, we can look a little more closely into some of the ways and techniques of how to exploit reading materials, books in particular, as fully as possible.
If you haven’t chosen what you want to read yet, our Reading Room may come in handy! You can browse through the categories and titles and choose whatever strikes your fancy. Remember – one page or chapter will do especially if you’re new to this. It’s much more preferable to read a little but on a daily basis than to choose one book and never pick up another. Once you’ve developed the habit you can start reading books in English from start to finish.
The first thing that worries learners are the new words they will inevitably come across. The two most common scenarios are: a student is overwhelmed by the amount of the unknown vocabulary and keeps looking up every single new word in a dictionary or they give up reading sooner than they started for the same reason. You won’t be surprised to hear that both of these ways are wrong.
Books are our friends
Once you have decided on the book, you need to become friends with it. After all, they are great companions when you’re on your daily commute, killing time in a waiting room or sitting on a park bench enjoying some fresh air. You should be prepared, though, that you’ll find words and structures you are not familiar with but be reminded that you will also come across words and structures you know very well. Your job is not to be discouraged but rather to embrace the ‘new’ and recognize the ‘old’.
Dictionaries are our assistants
As far as dictionaries go, you should use them sparingly. There is absolutely no need to look up all the new vocabulary. This can only confuse you and most probably put you off reading on the whole. Having said that, a good dictionary can be of great help when it comes to persistent words – words you keep coming across. Those are the words worthy of putting down the book and looking up as well as noting them down in a notepad for future reference. When you note down words, and we highly recommend that you do, make sure you have spelt the word correctly, you have included a definition or definitions in English and most importantly that you have also noted down one or two example sentences including the sentence in which the word appeared in the book you are reading. Keep in mind – words live in sentences and very rarely in isolation.
Of course, you may bump into a word or sentence structure you’ve never seen before or find extremely useful/strange/beautiful and wish to stop and make a note in your notebook, too. By all means, do so! Just don’t stop for every single new word. Try to figure out what the text is about from the context instead. This brings us to our next tip:
How to get more out of a book
Always keep a notepad, a notebook or your phone, if you prefer typing to writing, close to you when you read. Note down your favourite sentences, favourite passages, beautiful similes or metaphors, funny words, pretty words, unforgettable characters, nice (or famous) quotes, memorable insights (those ‘aha’ moments we get when we realize something all of a sudden). The focus here is only on what you, for one reason or another, really enjoyed regardless of whether you fully understood the language. Once you’ve filled a couple of pages doing so, flip through them from time to time. Not only will this be good for embedding and memorising vocabulary but you also might start noticing new things when looking at the same sentences from different perspectives. Make it into your own personal Book Diary complete with drawings and doodles. The bottom line is – have fun! It is no news that we become very good at things we utterly enjoy doing.
Communication is everything
Dear world, the rumours are true – if you don’t use it, you lose it! It’s been scientifically proven. Alright, I made the scientific part up, but it really is a no brainer that you need to put all that you have learnt into use if you want to make progress on your learning English journey. Put simply, use all this wonderful new language you have picked up while reading at every opportunity. If you’re not attending any classes, you can easily find and join book lovers’ communities where you can engage in discussions with people from all over the world. Another thing you can do is make it into a fun tradition when you are dining with your friends or family for each of you to read a favourite passage from a novel which you can then talk about – in English! Or you can join After Class – hour-long online sessions where you will not only use and thus activate your knowledge as well as practice new things you have learnt but you also get immediate feedback on your performance.
Happy reading! Happy learning!