How to Improve Your English Reading Skills

If this article is too difficult for you to read, translate it into your own language to read our tips!

Reading

Reading can often be one of the easiest skills when you start learning a English, but as you practise speaking more and more and find you can have conversations, reading tends to become a skill that is less practised, just like listening. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t an important skill though. You need to practise your reading skills in English just like speaking, listening and writing.

Here are our top tips on how you can improve your reading skills in English.

Read books

This might seem obvious but reading books is going to help you improve your reading skills very quickly.

The important thing when you’re trying to read books in English is to find books at your level. If you read a book in English that is too difficult for you, then you aren’t going to enjoy it, you’ll find it difficult to keep reading and you probably won’t improve your reading skills.

Instead you have to find books that are appropriate for your level of English. If you’re a beginner find books that are suitable for a beginner, if you’re intermediate, look for books that match an intermediate learner’s level and so on.

Here are some books that you can match to your level.

Graded readers

Graded readers are books that have been written for a specific level. So if you’re a beginner you can find engaging stories that have been written specifically for a beginner.

Graded readers are becoming more and more popular and are a definite must for improving your reading skills, because you can move up the levels of difficult as you progress.

Check out our English books for beginners here.

Children’s books

Children’s books are a great place to start off if you’re not confident with reading because the grammar and vocabulary is always relatively easy. Also although the stories are quite basic, they also tend to be quite fun and the stories are more interesting than you would’ve thought.

We recommend anything by Roald Dahl.

Read the News

The news

Reading the news is a great way to practise reading more formal writing. If you’re reading fiction then the writing style you’ll be exposed to will tend to be more informal. Reading the news helps you to be exposed to more formal, informative styles.

If articles are too difficult for you at the moment, you could try reading headlines at first, and as this gets easier and easier you can start reading the whole articles.

This is quite easy to do if you build it into a habit. You might be used to reading the news on a morning in your own language, just start doing this in English instead and you’ll find you’re getting five minutes English reading practise before you’ve even started your day.

We would recommend reading the news from the BBC.

Try past exam papers for the TOEFL reading section

Using past exam papers is a great way to find reading material that is appropriate for your level. Each level of the TOEFL has a reading section that has been written specifically for the level it’s testing.

Incase you’re new to the TOEFL, it’s graded from levels A1 – B2:

  • A1 – beginner
  • A2 – upper beginner
  • B1 – intermediate
  • B2 – upper intermediate
  • C1 – advanced
  • C2 – near native

And there will be past papers available at all of the above mentioned levels.

So if you look for past exam papers at your level, you can find reading material that is not too difficult but is still challenging.

Use websites to find graded material for free

There are lots of website who specialise in providing free graded reading material for English learners to help them practise.

The British Council have a fantastic selection of graded reading material that uses the CFER framework, meaning they’re graded A1 – C2, and you can find here.

Use Social Media

English is the most used language on the internet and social media. So if you follow English speaking celebrities, you will get reading practise with exposure to their posts and tweets. This is also good as tweets tend to be more natural language and closer to how people actually speak so you’re getting useful exposure.

Put subtitles on your favourite TV shows

If you’re watching the television, then try adding English subtitles so you can read as you watch. This is a relaxing way of practising your English, as you’re watching a film or TV series that you enjoy, but you’re reading along in English at the same time.

You can do this either in your own language with English subtitles, or with English audio and English subtitles so you’re practising your listening skills at the same time.

Handy tips

  • Underline new words so you can look them up later
  • Read material that you would find interesting in your own language
  • Read for meaning of the text in general, not to understand every single word
  • Reread more difficult sections
  • Read something that you’ve already read in your own language like Harry Potter
  • Read something that’s challenging but not so difficult that you can’t understand the meaning
  • Answer questions about what you have just read
  • Join an English book club and discuss the book you’ve read
  • Read aloud so you can get used to the rhythm of the words
  • Read a little bit everyday so it becomes more of a habit
  • Read out loud to a native speaker so they can help you with your pronunciation

Final thoughts

If you’ve read this article, then we can probably assume you aren’t a beginner, but it’s always useful to improve your English reading skills. Try and get access to as much material as possible, and remember it’s always better if the material is at your reading level. Don’t rush ahead and try and read something too difficult because you’re just not going to enjoy it and it probably won’t help you that much either.

If you’re learning English and you’re trying to improve your reading skills then let us know what resources you normally use in the comments below.

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