If you are someone who hates to read, you might just be reading the wrong books. When it comes to reading, especially for English language learners, you must choose the right books. Reading is an important part of understanding a language – and too often it is dismissed because it is “too hard.”
For those students lucky enough to study English in Washington DC, you will be surrounded by American culture. Why not immerse yourself in American culture by reading? As you begin to read books with English speaking characters, you will become more fluent in reading and speaking English yourself. Reading forces you to not only learn new vocabulary, but it also makes you use your brain to visualize settings and characters.
As you take an English class in DC, take time to explore other parts of the English speaking world by reading. Visit the Southern United States or travel to Great Britain from your living quarters. Read and hear how English speaking characters converse with one another – and practice speaking English by using these same phrases in real life.
For example, students at inlingua, a prestigious Washington language school, practice speaking 80% of the time. Reading will help you develop your English fluency at a more rapid pace – especially when you are also taking English courses in Washington DC.
Additionally, English language learners preparing to take the IELTS at an English test center will need to have English reading fluency, as this is a section of the test. The more you read on your own time, the more your English reading fluency will improve.
Now that we’ve established why reading is so important for English language learners, let’s look at some of the best ways to read in English, as well as books English language learners will love.
Tips for Making Reading Enjoyable and Easy for English Language Learners
- Find the library. Public libraries are full of free reading materials you can borrow for various lengths of time. This is a great way to save money while having fun and learning.
- Choose topics that interest you. Too often, students read what they are told to read rather than what they want to read. When it comes to learning to read in English, we suggest reading what you want to read. Look for topics and genres that interest you. For example, if you love superheroes, then start off by reading superhero comic books. The point is to read for fun. If you are enjoying what you are reading, you will be more likely to keep reading.
- Read a book in English that you read in your native tongue. If there is a book you read before that has an English translation, read it in English.
- Read using an e-reader when possible. E-readers are tablet reading devices or apps on tablets or smartphones that allow you to download reading material and take it wherever you go. However, the real reason we recommend e-readers to English language learners is that most come with an English dictionary installed that allows the reader to highlight words in the text to see the definition simply.
- Listen to the audiobook as you read along. Most popular books have audiobook versions. Listening to someone narrate the book while you read along is a great way to develop your reading fluency skills. Also, some web-based apps make this easier than ever. Amazon’s Kindle has a Whispersync tool that allows readers to listen to the audio and read along.
- Choose books that are not too difficult or too easy. You want to give yourself a healthy challenge so that you learn and strengthen your English language skills, but you also don’t want to become overwhelmed and frustrated by text that is too difficult.
For those just beginning to learn English, it is a wise idea to start by reading popular children’s books. These books have fun, exciting stories with interesting characters. They also have shorter sentences and an easier vocabulary.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (or any book by this author)
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
The Giver by Lois Lowry
Young Adult Fiction
Young adult fiction features teen characters dealing with young adult problems. These novels are more advanced than traditional children’s books, but they still tend to be less complex and shorter than adult novels. Typically, they have fast moving plots and coming-of-age stories.
Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
If you are drawn to comic books or manga, read a graphic novel in English. These are basically lengthier comic books with complex casts of characters and more detailed plots.
The Watchmen by Alan Moore
Another easy way to find books that interest you that you will feel comfortable reading is to look for the bestsellers. Generally, books on the bestsellers list are easy to read. They are labeled bestsellers because they are popular – meaning masses read them. These books tend to have fast-paced plots with interesting characters that will keep you wanting to read.
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
It by Stephen King
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Classic American Novels
As you develop your English reading fluency, take time to read some of the classic American novels – especially if you are studying English in the US. The following books are just a small fraction of books that are representative of classic American literature. For more ideas, see The Great American Read which showcases America’s 100 most-loved books.
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee