Do you like reading? What are your favourite books? Have you ever read a story in English? Was it a long or a short story? Was it difficult? Why?
Did you know that reading in English can really help you a lot in learning the language?
Reading whatever authentic (i.e., not “manipulated”) written material you can find in English, from newspapers to magazines, short stories, diaries, biographies, novels etc., can really help you get a better knowledge of the English language.
It’s just like learning to do something while watching someone else doing it: you will visualize and memorize the way in which English sentences are built and put on paper, as well as being presented with lots of examples of spoken English communication. What’s more, reading will also help you develop your writing and speaking skills in English.
Students very often think that reading in English only means going word by word, stopping to look up in the dictionary every single word they do not know, until they reach the end of the text/article/short story/novel. The result of this TIME WASTING activity is often so frustrating for the students that they soon lose interest and stop reading.
The most urgent thing to do is to change the approach to “reading in English”.
Consider the following suggestions on how to develop your reading skills:
BEFORE you start reading ask yourself questions like:
– before you start reading, consider elements like the title, a sub-title or any picture/s to have a clear idea of what you are going to read
– do you find the topic interesting? Have you ever read anything about this topic, maybe in Italian? did you like it?
– what type of text is it? Is it a formal or informal piece of writing? What do you think the style will be?
– what kind of vocabulary do you expect to find? Are you familiar with it or not?
These questions (and their answers) will help you focus on what you are reading, for example a story or an article.
Much, much more important, WHILE you are reading be sure to
– read for the topic, or the story, NOT for words. DO NOT translate, DO NOT read word by word. Just read, more than once if necessary
– keep your mind on the topic and try to identify the main ideas presented in the text
– make a pause when you get to the end of a chapter, and see if you can retell the main events of the story: could you give a short summary of what has happened?
– look up in the dictionary, after you have finished reading a chapter, only the unknown words that you feel are really necessary to understand a key point in the story. Was the word (or the words you decided to look up) really relevant to understand the story?
– start making predictions about how the story will develop. What do you expect will happen next? This will help you keep your attention on the story and not on single unknown words
When you have finished, reconsider the steps you have followed while reading. Which reading strategy has proved successful, which hasn’t?