How to Choose a Suitable Level for Reading Materials in English
Reading is a brilliant way to improve your English, and it can be a lot of fun. By reading something you enjoy, learning a language can feel less like a chore and more like a way to relax.
Reading can also be a difficult and frustrating experience, but it can also be extremely rewarding. Follow these tips to help decide which level you should read at and get the most out of your English reading.
Which level should I read at?
Reading texts which are an appropriate level is very important when reading in a second language – if the level is too low, you will be bored; if the level is too high, you will get frustrated.
Finding the right level will make your reading a lot more enjoyable, but in order to decide which level is right for you, you need to consider what kind of reading you are doing.
What kind of reading am I doing?
In our daily lives in our first language we are constantly reading, but we don’t always read in the same way. Think about these different types of reading:
Checking the time for a train
Skimming through a news article
Analysing a report for work
Reading a novel before bed
Each of these is a different skill.
The first example, scanning, is used to quickly find relevant information. Any level can be used for this kind of reading, because you don’t need to understand the entire text.
The second example, skimming, is used to quickly understand the topic of a text. To practise this kind of reading, see if you can work out the topic from the headline of an article. If there are too many unknown words, you will probably struggle to skim the text. If you can understand the gist from the headline, continue skimming through the rest of the article for practise.
The third example is reading for detailed understanding. When practising this kind of reading, it is important to make sure you have more than a basic understanding of the content.
You may need to read it several times, and make a note of new words, phrases and grammar. You may also need the help of a teacher to reach full understanding, but this is an important way to challenge yourself.
For this kind of text, aim for comprehension of around 80% on the first read. If you understand more than that, aim for something more difficult. If you understand less, go for something a little easier.
Follow the tips in this blog for help on making notes during reading: (link to note taking article)
The fourth example is reading for enjoyment, or extensive reading. The idea behind this is that by exposing your brain to a lot of understandable input in English, your level will improve.
This is the best kind of reading to practise by yourself, since it should be fun and relaxing. For this kind of reading it is vital that you don’t choose something too difficult. The idea is to get a large amount of input.
Around 95% understanding is a good target for extensive reading, so that you will still encounter unknown vocabulary (around 1 in 20 words), but will not need to constantly check a dictionary while reading.
In fact, it is best to avoid note taking and use of a dictionary while extensive reading, because it should be as fun and enjoyable as possible.
Next time you’re choosing something to read, think about what kind of skill you want to practise, and have fun!
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