Trying to get English students to read more is a hard sell. (That means that it’s not easy to do.) Many of them say “Reading is boring!” or they tell me they can get any information they need from YouTube or TED Talks. If they do read in English, they read technical journals for their professions, messages from fellow video gamers, 140 character tweets, statuses from Facebook, or captions from Instagram.
While reading something is better than nothing, I think not reading books, newspapers, or magazine articles in the language you are trying to learn is a mistake. I asked students in my reading class:
Why do YOU read books, newspapers, or magazines in English? How does it help you?
- Reading helps you learn vocabulary. The more you read in English, the more English words you will know. Better yet, you will see those words in context, meaning you will see how they are used in the real world! You will see their collocations—words that tend to be used together. For example, the verb break is often used with break a rule, break an engagement, break a glass, break someone’s heart.
- Reading helps you learn grammar. You will see different sentence patterns in English. Instead of learning sentence structure in the more artificial and theoretical language of the grammar or writing classroom, you will see real sentences in books by and for native speakers. This will help your grammar and writing skills—not just your reading ability.
- Reading helps you learn about American culture. A story or a newspaper article in English is more than just Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. It also tells you about American history and daily life. It tells you about American customs and expectations.
- Reading in English might be the only way you will ever see certain information. Not every book or article exists in a translation into your native language. If you want to read modern novels or get news or other types of professional information, those things might only exist in English.
So for these reasons (and more), you should start a daily habit of reading in English—not just for class, but for yourself.
- Read magazines in areas that interest you—sports, fashion, science, health.
- Go to your neighborhood library and look for young adult novels (they tend to be shorter and have lots of up to date slang).
- Read on-line news in English (The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Oregonian, and more).
- Read blogs in English (like this one)!
The more you read, the more quickly you will learn and the better your English will be.