Is Reading English Hard? How to Improve English Reading with 8 Easy Steps
About This Event
Did you read anything in English this past week?
How much of it did you understand?
“Reading comprehension” refers to how much you understand of what you read. Even if you read an English book every week, it doesn’t help your learning much if you don’t know what the words on the pages are saying.
So you may be wondering how to improve English reading beyond just… reading more books.
We will help you learn English reading with smart strategies. You’ll discover exactly how to read English books in a way that will actually improve your skills.
How to Improve Reading and Understanding English
It’s easier to learn English reading than you think! Here, we will discuss how you can improve using staircases and scaffolding.
When a house is built, it doesn’t all get done at the same time. Workers have to build some temporary structures to help keep the house standing up and to help them work on the higher parts. These structures are called scaffolding.
Scaffolding is also a method of learning. The idea is that, to learn a skill well, you need to learn smaller parts that will help you “build” your knowledge and skills.
This is true for reading comprehension too! To really understand what you read, you might need to work on other skills first. You might need to practice reading quickly (or slowly). You might need to stop choosing very difficult books, and start choosing the right books for your skill level. Start easier, start smaller and slower, and then gradually increase the difficulty.
Remember this when you’re working to improve your reading comprehension—and any other English language skill!
The steps below will show you exactly how to improve reading skills the right way. Use these tips and you’ll be understanding a lot more of what you read.
Is Reading English Hard? How to Improve English Reading with 8 Easy Steps
1. Always Make Special Time to Read
Reading for fun can be done anywhere. You could take a fun book out on a bus, in bed or at the office, and you can enjoy it.
However, if you’re reading to improve your comprehension, you need to focus and study.
This means you need to make a special time for this reading. Making time for your reading will let you focus well without risk of being interrupted. This time should be quiet, and you should avoid being distracted.
You should try to spend at least 30 minutes every day on focused reading. That’s how to improve your reading skills seriously and successfully. The more you read, the more you’ll improve.
Turn your reading process into a ritual, something you repeat every time you sit down to focus on reading English.
Follow these steps, or any other steps that you’d like to make a part of your reading process:
- Find a quiet, comfortable spot with bright lighting to sit.
- Get everything you might need ready before you sit down. For example, you might want to have a pen, your notebook, a dictionary and something to drink.
- Decide how long you will read. (30 minutes is a good minimum amount of time.)
- Put all your electronics on silent mode (or turn them off) and put them away.
- Turning off the sound on your electronics might not seem important, but it’s something you really must do!
If you have a specific process for preparing to read, then your brain will know when you’re about to read and you’ll be more focused before you even start.
2. Read the Right Books
If you dislike science fiction, you might not want to read a book about a man stuck on Mars. When you’re choosing books (and other texts) to read, keep two things in mind:
1. What you’re interested in
2. Your reading level
Whenever you can, you should read things that you enjoy. You should also choose books that are at an English level just above the one you’re most comfortable with. You want to challenge yourself just enough to learn new things, but not enough to get frustrated with your reading.
Not sure where to start? There are lots of places online where you can find recommendations for books to learn English reading:
Listopia on Goodreads is full of lists created by people just like you.
Your Next Read lets you search for books that are similar to the ones you’ve read and liked before, or you can browse some of their lists.
Jellybooks helps you discover new books and sample 10%, which means you can try the book and see if it’s a good fit for you.
Whichbook is a very different kind of website—you choose the kinds of things you’re looking for in a book (happy/sad, beautiful/disgusting) and the website gives you suggestions based on that.
Any of these can help you find the perfect book for improving your reading comprehension.
3. Ask Yourself Questions While Reading and After Reading
Learning how to read English books is about more than just reading the words!
There are a few things you can do before, during and after reading to help you better understand the text.
Before you read, browse the text. That means you should look over the text quickly without actually reading every word.
Take some time after you read too, to browse again and summarize what you remember. Try to quickly say or write a few sentences that describe what the text was about.
Thinking about what you read will show you how much of it you really understood, and help you figure out if you still have questions.
Before you read, here are a few questions you can ask yourself as you browse, to help you prepare for reading:
- Are there any words in bold or italics?
- Are there titles or subtitles?
- What are some of the names mentioned?
- Is there a lot of dialogue?
- Are the paragraphs short or long?
After you read, the questions below can be used to help you think about what you did and did not understand:
- What was the text about?
- What are the most important things that happened in the text?
- Did anything confuse you?
- Did anything surprise you?
- Are there any parts you didn’t understand?
You might have some more questions depending on what kind of text you were reading, but these are good basic ones to start with.
4. Improve Fluency First
Do you notice how you stopped every time you saw the period?
Now imagine reading an entire article or even book like this, stopping after every word. It would be difficult to understand, wouldn’t it?
It’s hard to form an understanding of what you’re reading when you read word-by-word instead of in full sentences. That’s why, to improve your understanding, it’s important to improve your fluency first.
Fluency is how smoothly you can read. When you read in your head, you should have a certain rhythm to the words. The words should flow together naturally, like when somebody is talking. That’s how to read English books like a native speaker would.
Improving fluency can be as simple as choosing slightly easier texts to read, or it might take some time and practice. If you take some time to improve how fluently you read, though, it will help you in the future. You’ll improve your reading and even your speaking. It will also make reading feel more fun and natural.
Many of the words you find when you’re reading are actually “sight words.” These are words that you should know by sight and should not have to think about how to read them.
You can practice sight words very quickly. Just find a good list of sight words, like this one, and take about a minute or two every day to read the words as fast as you can.
If you don’t know any of the words it’s a good idea to look them up beforehand, but remember that this exercise is about reading faster, not understanding more. Once you can read at a comfortable speed, you can focus on understanding.
It might seem strange, but another great way to practice reading fluency is with videos. Specifically, look for English videos with subtitles. That way, you will read the words while hearing how a native speaker naturally says them.