7 Pleasurable Ways to Improve Your Reading Ability

“There is a total incompatibility between the joy of reading, a vagabond experience, and the experience of reading in order to answer questions, and explain what you understood.” – Rubem Alves, Brazilian educator.

What is most likely to influence your success at school or at a job? The ability to read well. And that goes for your kids too. The declining literacy of our society has been a major concern of educators for a while now, and yet things are not getting better. One reason might be a failure to recognize that reading and literacy are personal skills, best acquired when associated with pleasure.

In most cases, how well we learn to read will depend largely on our exposure to language as children. If we hear people around us talking about a wide variety of subjects as children, we naturally pick up the words and phrases they use. If we pick up a lot of words, we will have an advantage when we start reading, and we will learn to read better. This, in turn, helps us to acquire more words, leaving the poor readers, who know few words, further and further behind. The literacy divide usually begins early in life, and can only be overcome by lots of reading later in life.

Much of the traditional advice to struggling readers, these days, seems to involve developing “cognitive strategies”. In this approach, readers are asked to focus more, to think, to be curious and ask questions, to analyze, to predict, to infer, and to monitor their understanding, or worse still to answer questions on their comprehension of what they have read. In other words they are asked to become self-conscious readers.I do not agree with this approach.

Here are my seven strategies for reading improvement.

1. Read about things that interest you. If you are interested in what you are reading about, the words will come alive, and you will be motivated to understand. You will feel satisfaction in accomplishing a task that you enjoy, and which you consider meaningful. The more you read, the better you will become at reading. Just get started and it will become a habit, as long as you are interested in what you are reading.

2. Read material that is at your level, or just a little difficult for you. Read material that you find easy to read, or just a little challenging. Looking up many unknown words in a conventional dictionary is tedious, and the results of the dictionary search quickly forgotten. It is better to stay within your comfort zone and keep reading. Soon you will be able to take on more difficult content.

3. Learn to read in depth, stay on the same subject for a while. If you are familiar with the subject you are reading about, you will understand better. Do not just read short articles. Commit to books. Stay with one author for at least one book. If the subject matter is new to you, you should even try to read a few different books or articles about the same subject, before you move on. This way you will meet the same vocabulary and ideas often, helping you to learn. You will also be able to get deeper into the subject and your reading confidence will grow.

4. If you have trouble reading, listen first. Many great works of literature were written to be read out loud. Learn to appreciate the art of the narrator. Listen to audio books or audio files of the material that you are reading. This will help make difficult content seem more familiar. If you can hear the new words and phrases that you are reading, you will have an easier time understanding and remembering them. Hearing the rhythm of someone reading a text will help your own reading.

5. Let your imagination get involved. Good readers get engrossed in their reading and let it trigger their imagination. Learn to enjoy your reading without asking too many questions or analyzing too much. It will just spoil the sensual enjoyment of the reading experience. You do not need to predict or analyze. Just enjoy and look forward to absorbing the information, ideas and thoughts expressed by the writer.

6. Don’t worry about what you don’t understand. Most of your reading should be for pleasure. You can enjoy reading without understanding all of what you read. You may even understand some things in your own personal way. Neither you nor a teacher needs to “monitor” your understanding. Learn to enjoy reading, even while feeling that you do not fully understand or remember what you have read.

7. Recognize that the key is to read a lot. You may develop a system for keeping track of new words that you encounter in your reading, using lists, or Flash Cards, or other memory systems available on the Internet or elsewhere. However, the main growth in your vocabulary and reading skill will come just from reading as much as you can. So learn to enjoy reading and read a lot. Keep reading, and you will become a better reader.

Unfortunately not all reading is just for pleasure. When you are reading a textbook or manual, or report or other material that have to read for school or work, you may need to underline, take notes, and read some parts over again, in order to retain what you are reading. However, if you have developed the habit of reading for pleasure, you will find that the cognitive techniques you need will come naturally, and that you will understand a lot better than before.

Steve Kaufmann is a former Canadian diplomat, who has had his own company in the international trade of forest products for over 20 years. Steve founded The Linguist Institute Ltd. in 2002 to develop a new approach to language learning using the web. The new LingQ system for learning multiple languages is now available in Beta. Steve speaks nine languages fluently and is currently learning Russian using LingQ. Steve maintains a blog on language learning.

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  • Great post! I love to read, and I always have a few books on my to-read list. I also think it’s very important to always keep reading. It keeps my mind going. I recently started writing myself too, and I think reading a lot helps with the writing process. I write in English on my blog, but I’m not an native English speaker, so I read a lot of books in English and it helps!

    • Anilsinghmar2

      thats really interesting

    • Adeoye kafayat

      i love reading things that motivate me too read more,especially magazine that is only base on celebrities story it really motivate too read from morning to nigh.reading aids one intellectually.It is very important to always read wide because it aids you to more vocabularies,vocabularies enable us too interpret and express our self,

  • I loved this post. It for sure is going to help me a lot in my future readings.
    Despite I like a lot your blog as a Brazilian reader I’m improving my English skills with each of your posts.
    Please, keep up the good work.
    Congratulations from Brazil.

  • I agree with #4: people have different learning styles and some people are better at understanding and retaining information that they hear, while others are more visual. If you do both, listen to the audio tape and read the book, it’s amazing how much you remember afterwards. I also agree with #5: getting your imagination involved helps make whatever it is that you’re reading “come alive”. However, I think that asking questions as you go along and analyzing what you’re reading is also important. Of course, you’re not going to devote the same amount of time to everything that you read, but when something is important the more layers you can add to your reading (visual, auditory, imagination, analyze, ask questions) the better.

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  • NoHo

    I ain’t reading all that.

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  • I owe it all to books. Thanks for the very wise post!!

  • David

    I also think people have different ways of learning. I’m a visual reader or picture words. I can remember anything after i put it in to a picture.

    I would recommend the following company.

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  • It’s important to be able to read well. I try to encourage my kids to start the reading habit early. As a parent, it is also important to set the example myself.

    I noticed that my girlfriend who does not enjoy reading, had difficulty encouraging her kids to read. Even though she makes an effort to bring them to the library or to buy books for them, they are just not interested.

  • John G

    #4 is a good point, but as well as listening another way to improve reading is to read aloud. I do this with my children and as a result my reading ability and the ability to understand what I am reading has greatly improved. Rather than skipping over things I don’t like I am forced to read every single word which is slower than normal reading. This results in better comprehension as I am able to digest the words at a better tempo.

  • Great list.
    One thing that can help a lot of people in developing a “reading addiction” is to make excerpts: More often than not you’ll hit on some wording, an expression or a well put thought you may want to memorize. By keeping a notebook by your side and quickly jotting down the excerpt or quote in question (including the source – else, you may waste tons of time coming back to some time down the road), the reading experience is amplified considerably.

  • LM

    Interesting info. Thanks

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  • Jonathan

    7. Recognize that the key is to read a lot.

    Exactly. The problem is that after graduating high school/college, most people don’t take the time to read more. It gets pushed off to the side and then forgotten amidst busy day lives. That’s what happened to me, even though I do actually love reading. What helped me? The web. I got hooked on google news, that at least got me reading something productive. Then I found which delivers books over email. I may not take the time to read at home, but I certainly don’t mind doing it at work! So by reading a couple minutes a day I’ve managed to finish three books so far this year. May not be much, but it’s far better than nothing.

  • As a speed-reading course leader I’ve found some great techniques that can make a big difference not only to the way and speed we read and remember, but can also raise the sheer pleasure of reading. One highly underused strategy is identifying and applying your best colour to the text background. This also helps with dyslexia. Another is to practice creative right-brain skills like pure contour drawing. I’m busy researching hyper-speed-reading skills for my advanced course. Anyone with some great ideas to add?

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  • Joel Spolsky

    This is advice for five-year-olds.

  • Thanks for posting this very practical suggestion for the encouragement of pleasure reading. Keep up the good work.
    I have my Blog too though I hope I did all correctly.

  • Andy Kim

    Great advice. I was force to become self conscious reader but I don’t find reading fun anymore. I strongly agree with number 3 and 5.

  • madhuri

    good enough

  • One highly underused strategy is identifying and applying your best colour to the text background.

  • This helps a lot for mom out there who have problems to their kids especially when they are still in pre-school. I remembered what did my officemate tell me. That she was having problem of her kid on spelling. Then I told her that expose her kid into reading a book.

  • Its a very good idea for growin children and a bit useful for adult

  • As a researcher and a student, to read fast would be an important factor. It’s an advantage and beneficial to me since I could read fast and save time.

    With the many speed reading programs today, I’m sure these are effective ways to improve your speed in reading. Though you just have to use a software package that suits your preference.

    • Cherish Wang

      I am a student and will be a graduate researcher in August. I was wondering whether you have any good software package that help improve reading speed. I would appreciate your help a lot!

  • I like number one almost any subject has it’s own vocabulary list

  • Pearl

    Lately I’ve noticed a decline in my reading ability and I’ve been worried about it like crazy.Ever sense I knew how to read,that’s all I ever want to do.Reading is my passion.I take it very seriously.This is the best advice for improving my reading ability.The intro itself is helpful.I am no longer as overwhelmed.So,please,continue with your advice.Thank you.

  • Pearl

    Lately I’ve noticed a decline in my reading ability and I’ve been worried about it like crazy.Ever sense I knew how to read,that’s all I ever want to do.Reading is my passion.I take it very seriously.This is the best advice for improving my reading ability.The intro itself is helpful.I am no longer as overwhelmed.So,please,continue with your advice.Thank you.

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  • MZ

    thank you for your great talking about reading  impriving. the seven rull is  make me to come my self and more gething ready to read. am high school student and am new to USA. my feeling was so dowin and dowin cuse o english and how can i improve what i read befor. now after i read your the way you past i feel like i get the sure am going to go highr reader. my hope is bright as moring sky!!!!

  • Hi,
         I like this post.Really interesting post. I enjoyed it. Thanks for the post.

  • Hi,
         I like this post.Really interesting post. I enjoyed it. Thanks for the post.

  • Supercalafa

    I lay down in a seductive pose in front of my mirror and touch myself until I fall asleep…

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  • Rutvik

    These 7 steps are awesome to be kept in mind to improve the reading section.


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  • Just Read some more… and more..

  • Megger Multimeters


    What I look for the post many
    time. I have also bookmarked you for checking out new posts. It is a pleasure
    reading your blog posts.

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  • Waqar Aslam

    Thanks for this nice post!

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