6 Ways Reading Can Improve Your English Skills

In the UK World Book Day is on 5th March… so, if you are in the UK you may see lots of school children dressed up as their favourite character, celebrating everything to do with the magical power of books and reading!  You don’t have to dress up…well, you can if you want to, but you should be reading… and I’m going to tell you why!

1. Improves your vocabulary

It’s a great way to IMPROVE YOUR VOCABULARY! You can discover lots of new words or you may have a lot of passive vocabulary that you want to activate. You may want to extend your knowledge of word forms by looking at prefixes and suffixes or look at synonyms, antonyms, parallel expressions – very important for exams! Of course, new vocabulary isn’t limited to single words, reading gives you access to a whole world of word combinations in collocations, fixed phrases and idiomatic phrases.

2. Builds Conversational Skills

It’s good for your CONVERSATIONAL SKILLS. Knowing more vocabulary means that you can express your thoughts and opinions with greater clarity and depth, share ideas or simply do more things! And if you choose texts that are more informal, contemporary or conversational there will be lots of everyday vocabulary and functional language that you can take away and use!


3. Make you better at listening

It can help your LISTENING. Reading and listening at the same time is a wonderful way to improve your English and there are many ways you can do this. Graded audio readers enable you to work at a fluency level you feel comfortable with, while encouraging you to “keep up” with the reader of the text. Many publishers produce these books, for example: Oxford Bookworms, Penguin readers, Black Cat, Macmillan etc., but you should also look at BBC 6 Minute English (aimed at B1 level, but useful for ALL levels).

Another great resource is Ted Talks where there is a huge selection of videos that you can watch, listen to and read at the same time. With Ted Talks you can choose the duration of the talk too – there are lots of talks from 0- 6 minutes. So, both of these are perfect if you only have 10 minutes free time! You can also check out our guide to the best podcasts for English learners here, for more resources.

4. It can help with pronunciation!

Reading is good for your PRONUNCIATION – yes, you read it correctly! Reading out loud is not just for primary school children, and it is especially good if you have a “model” to follow. It doesn’t have to be a long text – a sentence or a short paragraph is enough to begin with. Use audio readers and 6 Minute English as a reference point and focus on stress patterns in words and within sentences, intonation, where the pauses are. Think about the words that give meaning to your listener (Content words). Record yourself – a good use of your smartphone – and see how you compare to the original, then make any necessary changes to your pronunciation and listen again to how much better you sound!


5. Grammar! Grammar! Grammar!

It helps to improve your GRAMMAR! Think about it…when you are reading you are absorbing all the forms of English that you don’t usually like dealing with. You can highlight different verb forms (along with the different words that give the “content” of English: nouns, adjectives, adverbs) and you can highlight the “grammar” words (auxiliary verbs, modal auxiliary verbs, pronouns, articles, prepositions, conjunctions etc.). Then you can look at how the words work together forming patterns and chunks of language which you can record together in your notebooks.

6. Improves your writing skills

Using a sentence, paragraph or text as a model you can also improve your WRITING SKILLS as they provide a framework for you to copy and add to. Thinking about sentence structure from the word up – to a simple subject + verb structure and on to complex sentences and beyond. As with grammar look at chunks of language (vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation). You can then practise what you have learnt on writeandimprove.com – this is a Cambridge University website that checks and grades you work according to the CEFR (A1-C2), as well as giving feedback to help you improve.