I get it. You don’t like the things you have to read in your English class. The other students don’t like the reading either. Neither does your English teacher. No one likes it, so why read it?
Remember when reading was fun? When you just picked up a book and sat for hours by the window, your head buried between the pages? That is the reading you should be doing.
Reading should be for fun, reading should be for pleasure. Sure, sometimes we have to read things we don’t enjoy. But there should be plenty of other times when we just pick up a book and read it because we want to, not because it is part of a homework assignment.
And reading for pleasure — in English — is a sure-fire way of improving your reading skills.
Would you like to know how?
Read on, young warrior, and I shall give you all the details.
The Benefits of Reading in English for Pleasure
There are some incredible benefits from reading for pleasure.
Some of the best ones include:
- An increased empathy towards others
- Fewer symptoms of mental health issues such as depression
- A general feeling of well-being
- Plus an increase in self-confidence, self-esteem and all-round happiness
That’s right. Reading for pleasure makes you feel good. It makes you feel happy.
It also makes us feel more connected with other people and helps us to understand ourselves better and have better feelings towards others.
We can find these benefits when reading for pleasure — but only when we read things we want to read. If someone forces us to read something, or it feels like work then we receive none of these benefits.
And one major benefit that affects all ESL students — it is a major boost to your reading skills. By reading for pleasure, your reading skills develop at a massive rate.
So what’s stopping you?
Why read for pleasure?
Reading is a skill like any other.
And like any other skill we have, the more we do it, the better we get at it.
There are probably things you can do well, not because you thought it was the right thing to do, but because you loved doing it.
Maybe you are great at drawing. How did you develop this skill? Because you thought it was the right thing to do?
Did you say to yourself: You know, my life would be so much better if I was good at drawing. I could open myself up to so many opportunities.
No, of course not.
You just picked up a pencil and a sketch pad and drew things. You did it because you got great pleasure from it.
You enjoyed doing it.
And the same thing applies to reading. You need to read for pleasure, not because it’s some reading assignment from school.
Read because you love what you are reading and your reading skills will just bloom.
How to read in English for Pleasure?
These are the basic rules for how to read English for pleasure:
1. Read at your level
2. Read books or articles you enjoy reading
3. Go slowly
That is it. It’s simple but I think this is where many students go wrong.
Let’s look at these things in more detail.
Read at your level
Many years ago I studied French at school. I enjoyed studying French, and I was good at it.
But I wanted to be much better at it. So my teacher advised me to read a French novel.
“Choose any novel you like,” he said. “As long as it is in French it doesn’t matter.”
I chose 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea by Jules Verne.
It’s an old science-fiction story and at the time I loved sci-fi movies so I thought it would be perfect for me. But it was too advanced for me. I was reaching for the dictionary every other sentence. But we didn’t have the internet back then and I could only find a small selection of books in French at the bookstore.
It was all I had.
But for you, you have a massive selection of reading material to choose from. It is much easier for you to find some reading at your English level.
Make sure you read an English book at your level. If you don’t, it just becomes hard work and you will stop reading.
This is not the idea.
So how to find English reading at my level?
Go to Lexile. This website has a search function where you can look up a book’s Lexile measure. If you have a book in mind you want to read, just put the title in the box and click. Lexile will give you a measurement of the book’s reading level.
You might have to keep trying but you should be able to find other books at the same level.
Scholastic can also help with this. You can search in Scholastic’s database and find other books at the same Lexile level.
Read books or articles you enjoy reading
I once taught a boy who loved nothing but basketball. He lived for it. His father was not happy about this and wanted him to study books about business.
A fifteen-year-old boy and business books?
Of course, he could not be any more uninterested in the idea.
His father had bought a selection of books one of them being about Warren Buffett. We went through it and it was just hard work. The boy had zero interest in this dusty old American guy he had never heard of.
So we stopped reading it. I then had to think of stories about basketball. I could not find anything at hand so I wrote short stories myself.
I based the main character on the boy I was teaching and it was all about being in the school basketball team.
He loved it.
Now it was all about something he enjoyed. Something he loved. And he understood a lot of the references.
Now reading was no longer a chore or a lesson—now it was fun.
This is what you need to do.
No, not read stories about basketball—read things you love to read.
How to find books I want to read?
You can use GoodReads. If you have read a book you enjoyed — or was at a comfortable level for you — then GoodReads can help you find other similar books.
Just put the book title in the search bar and click on the book you have read. To the right, you will see other books that GoodReads recommends.
I wrote more about this in this article.
You can also try reading different websites that are in your interest. Look at this list I provided just here.
And go slowly
It is not a race. There is no need to rush through any book you are reading. Go slowly and enjoy what you read.
Just keep reading at your level and if you find you need to read something at a more advanced level, then move up a little.
Just compare yourself to your own level. Do not compare yourself to other classmates. Go at your own pace and go slowly.
Things to Do
There are a few things you can do when reading English for pleasure. I’ve outlined some ideas below.
Join a Book Club
Book clubs are clubs you can join where people read books together and discuss what they have read.
If there is one in your city where the members read in English then you should join. If there is not a book club nearby — or you think the book club is too advanced for you — then you can form your own book club with other students or friends.
In the book club, people put forward suggestions for books they would like to read. Then they read the books.
The members might read the book as a group. Or they might read on their own. But in the meeting, they will discuss the book and say what they think of it.
This is great for hearing different opinions of a book and learning how to talk about books and the characters in them.
Read Out Loud
If you have your own book club, you could read as a group. A great way to bring life to the book is to create different voices for all the characters. It is also a lot of fun.
Another great activity is to act out the story with all your friends. Or write the story in your own words.
Reading is a pleasure. It is not a chore. Reading is so much more than just an assignment you have to do for homework.
Everyone should read books.
You just need to find what you can read at your level and that is in your interest. Once you find your level and the books you like to read, it opens up an entirely new world for you. You will meet new people and new worlds and stories that will fill your life with magic.
And the best thing of all is that by reading for pleasure you will improve your reading ability. Your reading skills will go up to a much higher level.
Plus, you can increase your English vocabulary. And that will improve your writing ability. With all the new words you learn you will express yourself much better in both your writing and your speaking.
So what are you waiting for?
2 thoughts on “Reading English for Pleasure”
Excellent article and I agree reading is intrinsically linked to motivation for the content you are reading. Your French teacher was right when she said to read whatever you were interested in as long as it was in French!
I still only read what I want to read to this day. This may be why younger students at school have trouble with reading. There is so much to read out there but they don’t know where to start.