How to Improve English Reading Skills

By | May 2, 2014

Students often ask me how they can improve their reading. They tell me that the sometimes find it too difficult, too boring or are just not that interested in reading. This blog post will discuss a few of these problems and provide some helpful information on how to improve reading skills in English.

Does Reading Improve English?

The simple answer is yes, it will improve your English. Reading is a very important part of learning a second language and will definitely help your reading ability. In addition it will also help your speaking, writing, grammar and vocabulary.

There are many reasons why it will help you

  1. You will learn vocabulary in the correct context and this is very important because words often have more than one meaning. You need to know the different definitions of words and when to use them.
  2. Reading will provide you with a good example of writing and show you how to structure your writing correctly. When people speak, they don’t always use the correct grammatical structure, however, when they write they usually structure their sentences correctly. This will help you to learn grammar naturally.
  3. Reading will also help you learn and use English expressions, phrases and idioms in the correct way.

Reading Materials to Improve English

How to improve your English reading skillsThere are lots of things that you can read, but the most important thing is to make sure that you are interested in the topic. You can read newspapers, magazines, novels, short stories, articles, websites and everything else, but it’s important that you have a personal interest in the topic.

It can be difficult to know what to read to improve English, but generally reading needs to be enjoyable as well as interesting as this will give you the motivation to keep reading when things get too difficult.

If you’re interested in football, then read about football. Similarly, if you like technology, try reading about the latest technology. Whatever it is you’re interested in, read about it.

The internet is a modern wonder of the world and it contains at least 3.1 billion pages of writing (source WorldWideWebSize.com) and a large percentage of these pages are in English. Therefore, you shouldn’t have too many problems finding something that you enjoy reading about online!

Top Tips for Improving your English Reading Skills

Choose the Appropriate Level

If there is too much new vocabulary in a piece of writing then the level is too high for you. Similarly, you don’t want to read something that is too easy either. Try to read something that introduces a few new words at a time. If there are too many new words it will be too difficult for you!

Read Regularly

Always try to read as regularly as possible. It’s much better to read for just 10 or 15 minutes a day than it is to read for two hours once a week.

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Be Organised

When you are reading to improve your English you’ll want to make sure that you have everything you need before you start, this includes: your reading material, highlighter/pencil/pen, dictionary, and a notepad. You’ll need to highlight the difficult words, look them up in a dictionary and then write them down in your notepad for future reference.

Read the Whole Page First

Before you start highlighting and looking up words, it’s always a good idea to read through the whole page first. Sometimes, you’ll understand a new word from the context of the writing, or the writing will explain the meaning to you, this will save you time from having to look up the words yourself.

Once you get to the end of the page, go back to the beginning and find the words that you don’t understand and then highlight them, look them up and write the meanings down.

Use the Appropriate Methods

You need to know why you’re reading something. For example, are you looking for a particular piece of information, reading for pleasure or just trying to get the main idea?

There are 4 types of reading skills that you can use:

improve reading skillsSkimming – Here you don’t read every word, instead you just need to look over the text quickly and note the important information. This will provide you with the main idea of the text.

Examples: newspapers and magazines.

Scanning – Here you are looking for a specific piece of information. Again, look over the text quickly and try to find what you’re looking for.

Example: bus schedules.

Extensive – This will give you a general understanding of the text and is usually used when reading for pleasure. It’s not important to understand every single word, you only need a general understanding of the text.

Examples: Novels, newspaper stories that you’re interested in.

Intensive – This is used when you need very accurate details from the text. You should read and understand every word in the text. You might want to use this style of reading when you’re trying to improve your vocabulary.

Examples: exam exercises, contracts.

How to Improve English by Reading

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. The more you read, the better your reading skills will become. Moreover, you will improve your English grammar, vocabulary, writing and speaking.

Use the internet to find reading materials that you enjoy to read and read as much as you can. There are billions of blogs, websites, newspapers, magazines and more! You should never be stuck for something to read.

If you have any other tips or advice, please feel free to leave a comment below.

If you’re learning English and want to ask for some advice, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.

If you found this information helpful, please click the like button and share with your friends!

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Image “Woman Reading A Book” by Naypong  courtesy of freedigitphotos.net

2 thoughts on “How to Improve English Reading Skills

  1. Ed Malley

    I do agree that extensive reading is necessary for students to acquire the English language. However, there exist fundamentals such as phonemes and morphemes which are necessary for the proper pronunciation of words. These are rudimentary fundamentals that must be acquired before proper enlightenment on more complex grammatical issues such as compound sentences. We cannot tell students to pick up a load when they cannot even pick up an ounce, metaphorically speaking, of the English language. Therefore, we as educators ought to be sensitive in these areas of learning so that students do no lag on the basics and are able to build their list of English words. Additionally, it is essential that semantics be an important element of English composition in ESL classes. Semantics gives students a knowledge about the word and its’ varied uses. Therefore, it is important, nonetheless to arm students with a dictionary. For example, if the student is Spanish speaking, it would be noteworthy to give the student a Spanish-English dictionary so that the student may read the definition of the word in English in Spanish. I cannot stress enough the importance of phonemic awareness and semantic awareness in students. The pragmatic aspect of English language use is as important as semantics and phonemic awareness. Students of diverse cultural backgrounds may have little to no practical understanding of how words are used. For example, in the American culture the word “love” is used to express “extreme liking” or “intense interest” and may not necessarily have anything today with the connotations that “love” implies in the romantic sense. Students of diverse backgrounds need a contextual understanding of the use and application of words. As I said, the very basics ought to be covered before students can go an exhaustive train ride of grammar exercises and summer long book readings.

    1. William Lake Post author

      I couldn’t agree with you more. We need to learn how to walk before we can run! However, the more we walk, the quicker we learn to run. The more we run, the further (or quicker) we can run. Yes, students need to understand basic concepts and context and I assumed that students reading this blog post would be at a sufficient enough level to have already grasped the basic concepts of English!

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