Chapter 17: The power of pleasure reading.
You are using the Effortless English system every day. You focus most of your time on listening to compelling stories. You listen to point of view stories to learn grammar naturally. You learn deeply. As a result, your English speaking is improving. Each month you speak more easily and effortlessly. Your confidence is growing. You are mastering the core, high frequency English used most commonly by native speakers. As you continue improving, eventually you will want to advance to a higher level of English. Perhaps you want to study abroad in America or Canada. Perhaps you want to work for an international company that requires English. Perhaps you need to pass an exam such as the TOEFL, TOEIC or IELTS. When you reach this point, what is the best way to improve your English reading? How can you learn to read faster? How can you use reading to learn more words faster? How can you improve your reading comprehension? What’s the best way to combine reading and listening?
Most schools teach reading using an academic skill – building approach. Typically, students read difficult articles and then answer questions about them to test their comprehension. Students are taught how to identify the main idea of the article. How to answer multiple choice questions about the article and how to guess the meaning of unknown words. They’re then graded on their performance. During my teaching career, I’ve found that most students are bored by this approach. Worse, a tremendous amount of research shows that this method is inferior to one that is much more enjoyable and natural. Students who use this natural method write better, have better vocabularies, have better grammar comprehension and perform better on the TOEFL test than those who use the traditional methods found in schools and textbooks.
Just, what is this powerful, natural method? The research is clear that simply reading for pleasure is the most effective reading method of all. In other words, all you need to do is reading interesting and fairly easy books in English, no exercises are necessary, no tests are necessary, no complex reading strategies are necessary, no lessons are necessary, no required books are necessary. Easy, high volume pleasure reading. There is no big secret to reading in English. In fact, the answer couldn’t be simpler. You need to read books in English that are interesting and fairly easy to you. You need to read them every day and you need to read a lot of them. It turns out that volume is the key to improvements with reading. In other words, the key to better English reading is to read more pages everyday and more books every month. Choosing extremely difficult books is counterproductive. Some learners think they will improve faster by reading difficult materials. But the opposite is true. The best reading materials are ones that you can read without the use of a dictionary. Compelling content is also vital. You must choose books that are extremely interesting to you. Of course this will be difficult for everyone. If you love science, you should read easy books about science and science fiction. If you love romance then you should read easy romance books. If you love comic books, then read your favorite comic books in English. In the beginning you may need to read books that are designed for young adults, read as many as you can every week. The more you read compelling material, the faster your reading will become and the faster it will improve. Soon you will be reading novels and non-fiction books that are designed for adults.
Kill two birds with one stone. The very best approach to pleasure reading is to combine it with listening. When you listen and read at the same time, you kill two birds with one stone, in other words you accomplished two goals at the same time. You improve your listening and that’s your speaking and you improve your reading ability. Whenever possible get the audio book version of the book you are reading, be sure to get the unabridged audio book. The unabridged version will have every word of the book in audio form. You’ll then be able to listen to each chapter as you read along at the same time. By doing this you automatically learn the correct pronunciation of new words you encounter. You also learn to read a bit faster as you must follow along with a native speaker who is reading the book aloud for you. Combine listening and reading will build both you written and your spoken vocabulary. You will continue learning new English phrases from real, natural materials at a more advanced level. As your English ability becomes more advanced, novels, non-fiction books and audio books will become increasingly important. At the advanced level, you will spend most of your time reading and listening to books that are compelling to you, it’s as simple as that. Read what you love and read a lot. Listen to the audio book version whenever possible. This is the fastest and most enjoyable way to improve your English reading. As you’ll see in the next chapter, it’s also an excellent way to improve your writing. For practice, number one: go online and by an English language novel for young adults. I recommend starting with a series of books such as the “Hardy boys” or “Nancy drew”. Number two, read one chapter in the book each day. On a calendar, track the number of pages you read. Three, after one week increase average daily page count, read a little more. Your goal every week is to read more pages than you read in the previous week. Four, when you finish the first book, read another in the series. Continue reading books in the series until you have completed all of them. You’ll then be ready for somewhat more difficult materials. Five, of course get the audio versions of the books whenever possible.