The 5 Simplest Ways to Make the Best of English Reading


There are times when reading can seem like a real chore, no matter how exciting the content of it.  Ask me to read my favorite science fiction author on a Saturday afternoon and I’ll jump at the chance.  Ask me to read the same book in Japanese and I’ll probably take a pass.  We all know that reading is a skill like any other and, in order to keep that skill sharp, we need to keep at it.  Doing something you need to do but don’t really want to do requires self-discipline but there are also ways to make the reading effort easier to swallow and, dare I say, even pleasant?  Here are some tips you can share with your students to keep them motivated to read:

1.  Have a system – There’s a saying from Scott Adams (the creator of “Dilbert”) that “Winners have systems.  Losers have goals.”  Briefly put, this means that before you embark on your quest to improve your English reading ability, you need to have some kind of plan.  This plan would involve an attempt to read on scheduled days and at certain times.  When you schedule a reading time, your responsibility is to sit down with whatever you want (or need) to read and give it a try.  If you’re not feeling it, you close the book and put it aside for your next scheduled attempt.  In this way, you’re not feeling lousy about failing to read 30 pages of a book (that’s a goal) but rather you feel good about yourself for making the attempt (which is part of your system).  You’ll find that as long as you go to the effort to sit down with the book, article, whatever, that you’ll more often than not go ahead and start reading.  This keeps your confidence up and keeps reading from becoming a “win or lose” proposition.

2.  Be environmentally friendly – What I mean here is that you need to take the time to create an environment where you’re probably going to read.  This means getting rid of distractions like television and smartphones and games.  Put on some pleasant background music (may I suggest some light classical music?), pouring yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea, and maybe even getting out some snacks.  The most important thing is to make yourself feel as comfortable as possible so that you can focus on attempting to read something.

3. Variety is the spice of life – It’s also the spice of reading.  When you start to feel bored or overwhelmed by whatever you are reading, don’t completely turn off and switch the TV on.  Instead, switch to an easier level of reading to help bolster your confidence a bit.  If you’re reading an Academic English article from dreamreader, for example, go ahead and switch to a Fun English article even if you feel it’s too far below your current skill level.  Try the quiz, watch the video at the end of the article, and then get back to work.  Taking micro-breaks can give you a refreshing change of pace and give you enough energy and confidence to go back and tackle those tougher readings.

4.  Reward your efforts – Any psychology major will tell you that making associations between effort and reward is a powerful way to motivate people to do things.  Make sure that you give yourself some kind of small reward after you reach a certain milestone in your reading task.  After you finish an article, for example, reward yourself with a piece of chocolate.  You may not immediately feel the association between reading and the reward right away but your brain will start to make the connection very quickly if you keep doing it.

5.  Talk to people – Reading doesn’t have to be a lonely journey uphill for every learner.  After you finish a reading, try to talk to someone to see if you understood it correctly.  Talk about what you felt while reading and make comparisons with other reading content.  By making reading a social activity, it can become more fun and interesting.  It also reinforces your purpose for reading and gives you another goal to shoot for – the ability to connect with someone over a passage of text.