In today’s topic, I’m going to share my personal experience about vocabulary acquisition through reading and how I developed the habit of reading English books.
If I were to tell you that reading wasn’t my favorite pastime and that I wasn’t really into it, do you believe this guy?
Here is how it all began!
I can not remember when my mother gave me my first book, if I’m not mistaken it was at the age of eight or so and it wasn’t really a book like a fairy tale that parents usually give to their children, instead, she gave me a comic book which is still popular in Brazil and that I’m currently a subscriber to, anyway, I was somewhat surprised by it, mostly because of being a child, I would expect to get a present, in other words, a toy to play with and not a comic book.
At first, I didn’t really enjoy the comic book and I put it down, at that time, I can only remember that what caught my attention were the pictures on the front cover, it was appealing to my eyes so that I decided to give it a second try the next day and began reading the comic book. After I had finished reading it I was pleased with it, I really enjoyed my first reading experience so that I wanted to read more.
Why did I want to read more comic books?
The only answer I found to that was the following: The “pleasure of reading” interesting stories, discovering new things, characters, the plot and immersing myself in the stories, sometimes you can even relate to the characters or the situation that is involved in, super heroes for instance is a common case that every child relate to.
The conclusion: My first step in reading comic books helped me to develop the habit of reading books today!
Now, how to read in another language if you are a beginner? Or yet, how to develop the habit of reading English books? Without a shadow of doubt, it is much easier to read books in our own language than in another one, but who said that you can not read English books or that it is impossible to you?
Some English students strongly believe that they can’t read English books at an earlier stage, they usually say that reading English books are extremely difficult and boring, far from it! I admit it, I used to think that way myself, but thank to Warren from the outstanding blog Successfulenglish I have changed my mind with his help and now I find pleasure in reading English books so that every time I finish a book I want to read a new one, in other words, I became an avid reader.
Here are some steps that can help you to start reading English books.
- Here’s a good point to start: “Graded Readers”, they are shortened and simplified to make them easier to read, they have a set of books from “Easystart to Level 6″ and as soon as you get familiar with the vocabulary on them and get the hang of reading you can step up to the next level, but don’t worry to read a book above your level, if you try to speed things up you might get frustrated.
Graded Readers Classifications:
- Easystarts with 200 headwords only.
– Level 1 (Beginner) = 300 headwords
– Level 2 (Elementary) = 600
– Level 3 (Pre-intermediate) = 1200
– Level 4 (Intermediate) = 1700
– Level 5 (Upper Intermediate) = 2300
– Level 6 (Avanced) = 3000 headwords
For more details, you can take a look at: Penguin Readers
Once there, you can even take a level test to find out which one is best suited for you level.
- Children’s book is also a good option since they have easy vocabulary especially designed for them, in my case, I started reading “Goosebumps” which helped me substantially to acquire vocabulary and I still read them, also, Warren recommended me to read Archie comic books which I really enjoyed them because I like to read comic books in Portuguese, I usually laugh a lot when I read Archie comic books because the stories are very interesting and funny, it’s definitely worth reading.
- If you do not want to read “Graded Readers” or “Children’s book” and want to read an English novel then you can try to identify what kind of book (genre) you like most. If you have no idea what kind of genre to choose then you can do that based on your favorite movies, what kind of movies do you like most? Romance, Science Fiction, Adventure? Another good option is to read books you read before in your first language, once you already read them before you are pretty familiar with the plot and the characters which will help you to understand and familiarize yourself with the English version.
- Don’t read a book that is too difficult and boring, if you do so, you may lose your enthusiasm and consequently your interest in reading. If the book doesn’t draw your attention or if it’s too boring and difficult don’t hesitate to put it down and try a new one that may give you pleasure. A good tip that Warren posted on his blog is to make a simple math to calculate the numbers of words you don’t know in English, here’s what he wrote: “Estimate how many words there are on one page of the book you’re reading. You can do this by multiplying the number of lines on the page by the number of words in one line. Then count the number of unfamiliar words on the page. Divide the number of unfamiliar words by the number of words on the page. If the percentage of unfamiliar words is 2-5%, the book is about right for you”.
Again, if you can’t read a book above your level, don’t hesitate to put it down, remember: “Comprehensible input” will do wonders for your language acquisition, the more pleasure you have in reading, the more knowledge you get from it.
- Locate the perfect place to read your books without interruption and free of noise and do it regurlarly, even if you read for about 10 or 15 minutes do it. When I started reading, I was doing it near my daughters and with the TV on, that was a waste of time because I couldn’t concentrate on the book, I had to find a quite place to read, I usually read at my office or when I go to bed.
If you are not conviced of the benefits of reading yet, then , I quoted below an interesting passage from the topic “The power of reading and listening” written by Warren.
“The advantage of reading = more language
Students often ask about watching television or movies. They can be helpful, but not as helpful as reading (or other kinds of listening). Reading has a significant advantage for language development. Here’s why: reading is full of language.
That may seem like an obvious, perhaps even a silly statement. But take a moment to think about it. When we watch a movie or television program, we listen to the dialogue (the conversation between characters). But we see the location and the action. The only language we hear is what the characters say to each other. But when we read a book or story, we read the dialogue and we read the writer’s description of the location and the action. We receive more language – more comprehensible input – than we do when we watch a movie or television program.
Think of it this way. When we watch a movie or a television program, it’s like having a language snack. When we read, it’s like sitting down to a full language meal, plus dessert!”. (“I really love this metaphor”)
Here are some interesting and useful statements that I got from the “81 Generalizations about Free Voluntary Reading” written by Stephen Krashen.
- SSR (Sustained Silent Reading) works for both first and second language.
- Those who read more read better.
- Those who read more write better.
- Those who read more have better vocabularies.
- Those who read more do better on the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
- Middle school boys who read more comics report more reading in general, more book reading, and interest in reading (Here’s my own case!)
Think of it, becoming an avid, voracious reader takes time though, it doesn’t happen overnight, but if you get into the habit of reading you’ll see great benefits to your English as well as it will do wonders to your language acquisition.