ESL students often need advice on how to improve their reading skills. Unlike speaking and listening, reading skills development is something a learner can do alone, which can improve quickly. Here are some useful tips:
1. Do not try to understand every word you read. Reading exposes you to a new language, but it is not a ‘vocabulary’ activity. Focus on developing reading comprehension – understanding the main ideas in the text, and searching for key information.
2. If you are reading a short text – such as an article – the first step is to read the whole text quickly to get your mind connected to the information. Then read the article again, but slowly, to pick out more detail. Always read like this on the reading section of a test.
3. When you come across a word you do not know, read the information ‘around’ the word, and then read the sentences before and after this. They will give you clues about what that word might mean. For example:
“I love going to see movies. I really enjoyed the last one that Bill Blue was in. He is a great dbyntillthy. My favorite in fact!”
You don’t know what ‘dbyntillthy’ means, but when you read around the word you can guess it probably means actor (dbyntillthy is not a real word of course!).
4. Use a dictionary to look up keywords only (like nouns and verbs that you must understand to get the message). Do not look up every word – this stops the flow of thinking.
5. Read books written for children and/or teenagers (depending on your level of English). The English language and grammar are more simple, and the concepts are easier to understand.
6. Reading newspapers can be difficult. The language structure is different, and the concepts are advanced. Some newspapers are written for university-educated readers, while others are written for the general public. Read online English newspapers written for less-educated English speakers – they will be much easier to read! For example, in Australia, The Australian is more advanced than the Daily Telegraph. In England try the Daily Mail and in Canada the Toronto Star. In addition, many non-English-speaking countries have an English-language newspaper, such as the Korea Times or Viet Nam News.
One final thought…if you can read this, thank a teacher! — anonymous