How to Read in English Like a Pro

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“This is the best book I’ve ever read. And I’ve read 15 books,” –Jake Peralta, Brooklyn 99

Reading in English may be the most important thing you do.

Reading helps you with vocabulary, speaking, comprehension, and grammar.

And you do it all, while on an adventure with the characters.

When I was learning Spanish, I read like a crazy person (this means I read A LOT).

I read so much because it was the best way for me to make connections in my mind.

I would hear a word out on the streets during the day, and when I went home I would read that word again.

The connections between words you hear, and words you read will increase your fluency by 1 million %!

Ok not 1 million %, because I made that up (I invented that number).

But it helps A LOT.

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Grammar sucks. I dislike it more than any other part of learning a language.

Luckily, if you read, you can learn grammar in a super-secret way.

This means…that while you read, you learn grammar!

Plus! You won’t even realize you’re learning.

You "internalize" grammar, meaning it becomes a part of you.

How to be strategic about what you read:

This means…choose the right book!

Not too easy. Not too difficult.

How do you do that?

How to choose the right level:

First, Read a page.

As you read, count the words you don’t understand.

Don’t look in the dictionary!!

Then, total the words you don’t understand.

  • If you understand every word – This book is too easy for you.
  • If you don’t understand 1-3 words – This book is perfect for you!! Start reading.
  • If you don’t understand more than 3 words – This book might be too hard for you.

I suggest testing a few pages of the book with this method before deciding to buy it.

How to choose the right book:

There are three types of books I recommend for English learners: Half and Half books, YA books, and Graphic Novels.

  1. Half and Half books:

This means a book that has one page in English, and one page in your native language. These books are great for beginners who have very little English. With these books I recommend that you read the English side first, and then the side in your language. To choose a Half and Half book, you need to make sure that it is not too difficult. Remember to do the 1-3 words rule. Often these half and half books are poems or short stories. Poems are good because they are generally short, and don’t necessarily have full sentences. Short stories are great because you can read one per day and learn about culture.

Dover Publications has a great line of half and half, or dual-language books.

Spanish – English books:

Russian Stories: A Dual-Language Book (English and Russian Edition)

  1. YA Books:

YA means Young Adult. Basically these are books written for adolescents or children. I recommend these books to English learners because the language is easier. There are hundreds of thousands of YA novels you can choose from. So to help you, I made a list of books from my childhood that I think will help you.

Charlotte's Web

This book is a classic for children everywhere. The story follows a young pig who is the runt (the smallest) of his litter (his brothers and sisters). The pig is going to be killed for being so small, when a young girl named Fern Arable saves him. Wilbur, the pig, grows up and is sent to another farm. A helpful spider named Charlotte is living in the barn with Wilbur. Charlotte the spider hears that Wilbur is going to be killed for food, so she writes a message in her web “some pig.” The farmer is so surprised that he doesn’t kill the pig.

book1
book1

The Chronicles of Narnia

This book follows four children who open a wardrobe (a closet) to an enchanted land (a magical place). They meet a lot of interesting characters such as a witch, a lion, and talking beaver. This is a series of books, that are written for children and will help you with your English.

Esperanza Rising

This book is perfect if you are a native Spanish speaker. It follows the life of Mexican farmers living in California during the Great Depression. If you are a native Spanish speaker, this novel has some words in Spanish to help you. A great theme, and an easy read.

book2
book2

The Giver (Giver Quartet)

The Giver follows the story of Jonas. Jonas lives in a community that has very strict rules, and is not like our current world. Your partner is chosen by a committee, and you can only have two children (one boy and one girl). Once Jonas is chosen for a special job, he begins to experience the memories of the past. These memories are painful, happy, and sad. They show a world with more choice and emotion than the current world he lives in. He makes a plan to change his community and show them the memories he was given.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone hardly needs an introduction (means it is very popular). So I am going to instead explain that the book is very easy to read. It was written for children, and I have read it in French and Spanish. It made a big difference for my level of Fluency.

The Old Man and The Sea

This story is about an old fisherman who hasn’t caught any fish in a long time. The fisherman continues fishing though, even after losing his young helper. The fisherman eventually catches a fish (after 85 days) and he is happy. The fish however never makes it back to the shore. Find out what happens next! The writing in this book is very simple and it is an easy read for English learners.

A Wrinkle in Time (Time Quintet)

This story follows Meg, a young girl who has very intelligent parents. But after her father goes missing, she is forced to take an adventure into an unknown land to find him. She faces many obstacles and learns to use love above all else to save her life and her father’s life.

  1. Graphic Novels:

Graphic novels are incredibly helpful (very, very helpful) to English learners. This is because you can see the words and the actions in the pictures. Graphic novels are even better than movies in English. This is because you have more time to look at the pictures and read the words. Here are examples of some graphic novels of famous movies, TV shows, and books that will help you learn vocabulary!

Alice in Wonderland: The Graphic Novel

A favorite of mine! This book originally written many years ago has become a cartoon, a movie, and a Halloween costume. Now, it is also a graphic novel. This novel will help you learn English, as you read through a popular childhood story!

A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel: Volume One

This graphic novel comes from the book series / TV show A Game of Thrones. The TV show and the books are wildly popular (very popular). The graphic novel follows a mixture of the book and TV show story line. Plus there are all new drawings of the characters (not drawings of the TV show actors). This book will be fun to read and will help your English, but beware that it has a lot of SPECIAL vocabulary.

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The Odyssey

This is a classic epic poem that has become a graphic novel. The graphic novel has the same poem from the original. So the English again is very SPECIAL vocabulary, but if you like ancient Greek mythology, you will LOVE reading and seeing Odysseus’ adventures.

Star Wars: Original Trilogy Graphic Novel

Another very famous movie classic. It is known all over the world. Follow the adventures of your favorite characters while learning SPECIAL vocabulary and the beautiful drawings they included. This is an awesome book to help you learn English.

V for Vendetta

This graphic novel is an adaptation of the famous movie, by the same name. If you are a fan of the movie then you might like this graphic novel. It is full of awesome phrases and will help you learn English!! Good luck.

How to Find Books For Free:

You can find a lot of books for FREE at www.gutenberg.org. A free website based out of Australia that posts entire books free of copyright. There you can download some free novels. You can also visit your library to find books for free!

How to Read in English Like a Pro:

Now that you have a book at your level, you need to start reading it!

Reading is pretty self-explanatory (means that it is easy).

But what happens when you find a word you don't know?

Look it up!

Get your dictionary and look for the word.

Every time you find a word, put it on your book mark (a paper that holds your place in your book).

That way you have it for easy access later.

Remember What you Read:

Next you can make flashcards of your words and practice them even when you're not reading.

Every time you have to look for a word, make a flashcard.

On one side put the word in your language, or a drawing of the word.

On the other side put the word in English, and an example sentence.

You can also write a summary of what you read.

Have your English teacher look over your summary for you!

Good luck with your reading adventure.