In the previous post on extensive, or pleasure, reading, I presented four benefits. In this post, I give advice on how to develop a habit of reading for pleasure in English as a second or foreign language.
It is pretty simple – just read. However, what you choose to read for extensive reading is important. First of all, find reading material that is interesting to you. If you aren’t interested in a subject or a particular genre, then you won’t be very motivated to read. Read magazines that have a similar subject area as those you read in your first language. The content in any language is similar, so it makes it easy to guess at words that are new. If you like beauty or style magazines, then read these in English. If you like cars, then read about cars in English. If you like romance or science fiction books, then read these in English. Whatever you enjoy learning about, choose these areas for extensive reading. The key is that reading should be a pleasurable experience.
How do you start?
Choose reading materials that are at or below your level. Find something to read and choose one page and read quickly, looking for words that you do not know. If you find more than 5 words on one page (or 5 out of 200- 250 words) that are unfamiliar, then find something easier to read. Again, the key is to read quickly and be able to understand the general ideas. If you have to struggle over a lot of unfamiliar vocabulary, then you are spending too much time in a dictionary and not actually reading! It is important to begin at the appropriate level to enjoy reading. The more you read, the more you learn, and soon you will develop your reading skills and English knowledge to more advanced levels.
How can I develop the habit to read for pleasure?
As in many things, reading in a second language requires discipline to form the habit.
It is helpful to start with small goals. Set a time in your day to read for 15 – 20 minutes. Don’t worry about a dictionary. Just read, and read at a quick pace. It takes practice to read quickly, especially in a second language. However, the slower you read, the harder it is to put words and ideas together to comprehend the overall meaning of what you are reading. Reading fluency improves when you make an effort to read quickly with a focus on overall understanding of the reading, not just word-by-word.
Resources for Extensive Reading
Sometimes it is challenging to find reading materials that fit your level of English, especially if you are working on your English in your own country where English is not spoken or read on a daily basis. One excellent online resource is Extensive Reading Central. This website has thousands of free reading materials of all lengths, genres, and levels. Of course, any website in English is a source for reading. Try to search for an area of interest by typing, “English language and fashion,” for example.
My favorite way to get materials in other languages is using Kindle apps on my phone and tablet. You can purchase books from Amazon Kindle or if you have access to an online library, you can borrow readings for free.
Another idea is to find an English bookstore in your city. Many cities with large bookstores often have an English language section. The materials may be limited, but you might find magazines in English or less expensive, used books.
Finally, what better resource than to study in an English environment, where resources are all around you? Even if you only have a short amount of time and money to immerse yourself in an English speaking environment, studying abroad is essential in order to develop proficiency in a second language. If you are looking for an English language program to support your learning, especially academic and professional English, find an accredited university program. UCIEP (University and College Intensive English Programs) is one resource for finding quality programs.
If you have any suggestions on where to find English reading materials at different levels, please share in the comment section.