I’m going to be honest with you.
Although I’m a dedicated reader, I was never a big supporter of reading books to train English.
It was more important for me to encourage students to speak or write or do a grammar exercise in between classes. I might send an interesting article or bring a short text to class. Yet I never asked my students to create a long-term, consistent reading practice.
What changed for me
Recently, more and more students have been asking me advice about what book they should read outside class. Inspired by their actions, I am putting a lot of thought into what advice I can give to each individual student.
In addition to that, I started to read in German again. I wanted to see what impacts it would have on my own language skills.
What did I learn?
What follows is not advice on how to choose the right book for you. This topic has been written about many times and very well.
Instead I would like to offer you reasons why reading can help you to build confidence in all areas.
1. Reading brings another language to you
A book (especially a nice long one) is something that is always there. You can take it where you want, and you can dive in and out whenever you like.
This is especially useful if you are not living in an English speaking environment.
Because of my job, I don’t always get a chance to have long German conversations every day. So it feels wonderful to spend 10-30 minutes reading, because it feels like I’m continuing a conversation with a friend. It gives me the chance to jump into “another language world” without swopping to my native tongue.
This is helping me to think in German, which also helps my fluency when I’m speaking. Plus, it gives me conversations in context, so if these conversations happen in ‘real life,’ I know what to reply. This gives me an ‘anchor’ to hold on to which helps me to feel more secure while speaking.
Finally, sometimes I see words I wouldn’t normally see and this is important to grow vocabulary, which means I can speak about and understand more and more topics easily.
2.Reading motivates you
Reading can be a great source of motivation for many people.
If you get a really good book, you will want to develop your skills so you can understand exactly what’s happening and so you can get to the end. In fact, I know many people who started reading in English because they were too impatient to wait for the translation.
You also see how well you are learning, as your reading becomes easier and faster with time. When you feel progress, you see the benefits and this gives you the energy to learn longer.
Also, let’s face facts: Reading another language is so cool! I love telling people that I read in German. Not to say “oooo-look-at-me”, more “this-is-a-cool-thing-that-I-do.” When we feel like we’re doing something exciting, of course we’re going to feel better about ourselves.
3. Reading in combination with lessons
I’m also beginning to see the benefits of reading a book in combination with lessons. For example, you can:
- summarise the story so far to classmates
- read it aloud to your teacher who can correct your pronunciation
- underline words and sentences and ask your teacher to explain the grammar
- discuss the themes of the book
It also builds on what you are already learning. As your skills develop, you might see certain grammatical structures jump out at you. Moreover, you will see the words you’ve learned in a past lesson.
All of this helps strengthen your knowledge, which help you feel great!
Last but not least…
4. Reading stops the fear of falling
We all know this feeling: you’re in a conversation with a native speaker or you’re watching a film, and you have no idea what they are talking about.
Sure, you understand one or two words, but the whole sentence? Forget it!
Believe it or not, this is a perfect situation to be in because this is exactly when we learn something new.
You can reduce panic in this situation by practicing the fear while reading.
When you are reading book, you probably won’t understand every single word. At the same time, I believe you will understand more or less what is going on. The more you read and the more you realise that this is a safe situation to be in, the less nervous you will be in conversations where you don’t understand everything.
Once you have faced this fear, conversations will become exciting learning opportunities.
Plus, if you really don’t have anything to say… at least you can start talking about the book you are reading!
- Books bring real English to you all the time
- Reading motivates you and is exciting
- You can use reading to strengthen what you already know
- You can also use it to practice not knowing
So no more excuses: Dust off that copy of Harry Potter, run to your next bookstore or put an English book on your Christmas wish list…it’s reading time!
How does reading help you? Is there a book you would recommend to other learners? Comment below!
Do you need help choosing a book, or do you want someone to talk about books with? Send me a message and we can arrange a trial lesson.
PS here’s another great post on how reading can build your confidence.