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How's Your Reading Comprehension Skills?

Updated on September 4, 2019
Vinnie Doobs profile image

Vinnie is a freelance writer who also taught EFL for more than 15 years. He is a mass culture enthusiast who loves quizzes and trivia.

Here are some useful reading tips for ESL learners.

Do you find reading intimidating? Does the sight of printed words make you back out in what would have been a great reading experience? Is it because your familiarity with words and phrases is limited? Can it also be because the sight of huge blocks of texts is too much for you to handle? Well, I have great news for you. Reading is one of those affordable pleasures that you can enjoy if you do it right. However, doing it right does not mean that it will be THAT easy, but with the right strategies, your reading experience will transform from tedious to entertaining.

Remember these quick tips before you sit down with a reading material:

Read when you feel relaxed. If your gold-plated Mercedes has just been towed by the Dubai police who drive Lamborghini squad cars, or if Duong's water buffalo that he entrusted to you was stolen because you were too busy with Bầu Cua Tôm Cá, reading will not serve you well. Anything bothersome will disrupt your concentration. Before reading, be sure that you are in a ready and relaxed frame of mind to maximize your reading experience and process information from the printed word better.

Read in chunks. Don't attempt to tackle a book in one sitting. Divide your reading time to 30 minutes and then take a little break. Taking your time will allow your brain to process the reading material better.

Find a serene or relaxing spot. Any place that you find quiet and will help you focus will do. The middle of the desert would be too extreme, but like what they say in the West: "Whatever floats your boat."

Skim before reading. You need the big picture like keywords when you're reading. Focus on the title, introduction, summaries (if there are any), bold and italicized words to get the main idea before you dig into the details.

Check for understanding. If you are reading fiction, before turning to the next page, try to guess what would happen next. If it's nonfiction, try to ask yourself how well you understood a paragraph or sentence now and then. Don't hesitate to reread a paragraph or sentence if you have to.

Take notes. Write down or use a highlighter pen for words and phrases that are not clear to you and look for their meanings. This is one method that helps you widen your vocabulary and familiarity with phrasal verbs and idiomatic expressions.

Review what you have read. Reading exercises your memory. Reviewing allows you to seal in the nuggets of information that you have learned and reinforces your comprehension skill. However, be sure that you are reviewing because "you want to" and not because "you have to."

Memorize and recite. Practice memorizing and reciting a favorite passage from the material that you have read. This is another good form of brain exercise, as you are using both hemispheres of your gray matter. Moreover, quoting a passage from a book you have read makes for an interesting conversation.

Summarize. For each paragraph that you read, make an oral summary first in at least two sentences, then write it down at the bottom of the page. You can also communicate with the material by writing footnotes on the page explaining a little why you agree or disagree with the author's idea. These methods allow you not only to develop your reading and comprehension skills, but your speaking, writing, and thought-processing skills as well.

Formulate your own questions. If the material is required reading, you would greatly benefit if you write down questionnaires that you think your teacher or professor would probably ask. You can also use these questions for discussion with your classmates or peers. For example, if you are reading a news about a blonde expat in Thailand who had the words "Fresh Spring Roll" tattooed on her back in abugida script, you may write a question like, "Do you think she understands the meaning of her tattoo?" This allows you to really dig into the material, and exercise your critical faculties by formulating interrogatives.

As a final note, some of the strategies like taking notes, summarizing, and formulating questions may appear too daunting, and expect that it will if you have not done these strategies before. Once you start to put your toe on the water and commit to it consistently, these strategies become second nature. No one is asking you to write a long discourse. You are simply noting important points to ensure that you understand the author's idea. Incorporate these strategies, and you will be rewarded with better reading comprehension skills. Now you may want to start your practice by applying these tips on this blog article. Jot down your notes. Go ahead.


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