Books are like maps.
No matter how well you know a city, you’ll still need a map from time to time.
Reading guides us to an understanding of proper grammar, effective vocabulary and descriptive language.
That’s why books truly are gateways to a deeper understanding of language.
My uncle once told me I should always carry a book in my back pocket.
“If you have a spare moment,” he would say, “read!”
He was right. It’s wise advice for anyone. Native speakers or new learners.
And it’s a great way to pass the time on a bus or subway.
It’s a well-known fact that reading is incredibly effective for language acquisition.
Professional writers will even tell you that reading makes them better writers.
Lucky for us, reading in your spare time has gotten even easier.
Not only are there plenty of great books to choose from to put in your back pocket, but now you can access thousands of reading resources from your smartphone!
On the bus, at the coffee shop, waiting in line or right before you go to sleep — it doesn’t matter when or where you choose to add this reading time to your routine. The fact is, you’ve always got at least 5 to 10 minutes in your day when you can squeeze in a little extra reading practice. It’s that simple.
The only thing you need to do now to get started? Locate some effective English resources for reading practice.
Here’s the deal: I’ll help you with the resources, and you’ll go get started reading.
You’ll be stunned by the results.
A Quick Introduction to Reading Techniques
The problem with reading is that we often look at it as a big project when it doesn’t need to be.
We don’t eat a pizza in one bite. We eat it in slices.
The first time we go for a run, we don’t run a marathon. We start with a 10-minute jog and work our way to longer runs over time.
That leads me to the best way for English learners to start reading: bite-sized reading.
Take little bites of reading in your second language. Take your time, start small and try to make reading a habit.
Going big isn’t always effective.
In most cases you’ll be your own English teacher when reading.
Read a sentence and take your time to understand its grammar structure and meaning. Then read a paragraph and take the time to study it. Then a page, then a chapter, then a book. Look at reading as just a slice of a bigger thing. Not as one giant obstacle.
Mix it up with other learning methods, too. Try the authentic English videos on FluentU for short but powerful English lessons.
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you'll see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It even reminds you when it’s time to review! Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
So it’s easy to squeeze in a few minutes between reading sessions. You’ll be moving quickly towards fluency before you even know it.
7 Easy English Reading Resources That Are out of This World
While you quietly read about one of your favorite topics, issues or people, your spelling, grammar and sentence structure skills will all improve without you even realizing it.
It’s true—you can learn and have fun doing it!
We use our free time staring at our smartphones to check Facebook, Instagram and our e-mail, so why not take some time to read in English?
If you really can’t do without that social media time, set yourself some rules. For example, five minutes of English reading practice could be your prerequisite for getting on social media.
Take the time to read!
Here are a variety of sources that allow you to easily start small in order to work your way toward a reading marathon.
Three Stellar Apps
The beauty of a smartphone is that it can be used as an educational tool. There are endless sources of language apps for you to use. Here are 3 of my favorites.
1. Learn English By Stories
This app offers perfect bite-sized reading.
There’s tons of helpful content provided here. You can choose from 7 different levels with hundreds of paragraphs in each. Every paragraph has audio that will help with your pronunciation. You can choose to hide the script so you can listen before or after reading it.
The paragraphs are short and basic. It’s a perfect app for those of us in a rush, as well as for those who are learning English for beginners.
It kills two birds with one stone by helping you with reading and listening.
The app is free and a perfect way to use five minutes working on your reading skills.
2. Voice Dream Reader
This app allows you to upload almost any text of your choice and it’ll read it to you.
Combining visual and auditory learning is incredibly effective in improving reading and language skills and Voice Dream Reader gives you both.
It also allows you to control what content you want to focus on and how quickly you want to hear it.
With a built-in dictionary, you won’t have to keep a clunky dictionary nearby. This allows you to listen to content of your choice on the go!
This amazing app is $9.99 but can be given a test run by downloading Voice Dream Reader Lite so you can make sure you want to spend the money.
3. Reading Comprehension Prep by Peekaboo Studios
This app is made for older native speaking elementary kids, but can still be effective for older English language learners.
The readings on this app are just short enough that you could complete them, do the reading comprehension at the end and feel like you’ve learned something or tuned up your English reading skills a bit — all while waiting for the bus.
Peekaboo also makes lots of other vocabulary, math and reading apps that could help you kill some time while learning in English!
Two Amazing Websites
There are endless resources on the web for the English language learner that’ll help with reading. Of course, you can check out newspapers and educational websites for native English-speakers, but if you’re looking for short readings tailored to (made for) the ESL learner, then check out these two great sites.
1. British Council — Learn English Teens
The British Council is really good at what they do and their website is a constant reminder of this.
In their reading skills practice, you can improve your reading by testing what you already know about a topic. You may also get a short reading to introduce you to a topic. Then you can take a multiple choice quiz, put parts of the reading in order or do some true-or-false questions about what you read.
And as a bonus, they also have a great app where you can listen to a podcast, follow along with a transcript and do exercises at the end.
2. News in Levels
This website takes one story and writes it at three different language levels. With each level, the difficult words are easily defined so you can learn what they mean.
In each lesson there’s also a voice recording reading the story. This allows you to learn proper pronunciation. The story is always read at a speed that enables you to read along if you choose.
Breaking News English also does a similar thing, with more testing at the end, but this is a bit shorter and more tailored to your level.
One Page-Turning Novel
“The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon
This is a brilliant novel for English learners. It’s thrilling, funny and a moderately easy read.
Told from the perspective (view) of an autistic boy, this book follows his investigation of a murder of a neighbor’s dog. He uses images to explain certain parts of the case and he mostly uses very basic sentence structure. Most English students will be able to follow the story without much assistance.
It’s told in chronological order (the order in which thing actually happened) and keeps the reader in suspense about what happened.
I’ve used this book with a book club of intermediate English speakers and they really enjoyed it. It was challenging enough for them to learn something new, but easy enough to allow them to get through the book without too much time spent translating.
The Bonus Lesson
Still reading? Well here’s a bonus for you!
Check out FluentU. At FluentU, we’ve collected awesome clips from reality shows, music videos, interviews, Disney movies and more, all to give you a taste of real-world, everyday English.
Thanks to our interactive subtitles, you can practice listening and reading while watching some really cool videos. And the best part? FluentU creates lessons, flashcard decks and vocabulary lists for you based on the videos you’ve watched, so it’s all personalized to your skill level, learning style and interests.
We’ll be waiting for you!
You can read along with subtitles and look up definitions of new vocabulary words along the way. Not to mention, we’ll give you personalized suggestions for what to watch next based on your learning level and personal preferences. Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes store.
So the takeaway? Start small. Use those five minutes of free time you inevitably have during your day. Take the time to understand the intricacies (details) of a sentence. Then, as your comprehension grows, increase the reading size and level. Don’t overwhelm yourself right away with massive books. Take my uncle’s advice and find something that fits into your back pocket.
You’ll never be bored again.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.