Reading… how to start and hone your skills?
If you like to occupy your mind or want to improve your language skills, reading is a great hobby. Starting to read does present some challenges: new vocabulary, unfamiliar “idiomatic expressions”, slang, and several other obstacles come immediately to mind.
I like reading. I am currently reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee in the online book group I belong to in Fife, Scotland. Starting was a challenge: the first chapter was very descriptive with many details and a complicated context to understand as the author “sets the scene”. For someone who is just starting to read books in English this may look to be an insurmountable problem, but this shouldn’t discourage you from trying to access and understand the “classics” of the literary world.
The writer starts the book by describing the social fabric prevalent in 1933 in Maycomb County -Alabama – and some of the characters in the local community. The first chapter gives readers the idea things may not be what they seem on the surface and the soon the racial prejudice and unequal relationship between African Americans and Whites in the Southern United States of the 1930s becomes very apparent.
Determined to grasp the language and the full meaning of the writer’s intentions, I searched for alternative ways to help me to achieve my goal and started looking for other resources related to “To Kill a Mockingbird”. I quickly found:
Illustrated books – These can help you with useful images and important phrases and they are not only for teenagers but for everyone! The mixture of text and images is very useful to understand the context and you feel much more satisfied with advancing your understanding.
Illustrations from To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Adapted and Illustrated by Fred Fordham (Penguin 2018).
Audio books – These are a great tool if you like reading and listening too. In my own experience, I find it interesting to listen to a narrator when I am reading. It is so useful hearing the pronunciation of the words. You can do this in different ways, such as reading and listening at the same time or listening when you are doing other activities, … You can find audio books on the internet and choose the ones most convenient for you. For example:
“To Kill a Mockingbird” (full audio) – Bing video
(66) “To Kill a Mockingbird” (full audio) – YouTube
Youtube – Reading a book can be easier to understand if you find a video to watch on platforms such as Youtube. I found a film about my book and brief resume of each chapter too.
(66) Video Sparknotes: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird Summary – YouTube
Dictionary – is always useful and there are many good free ones available on the internet!
English Language Resources from Macmillan Dictionary
Cambridge Dictionary | English Dictionary, Translations & Thesaurus
I am reading the paperback book and I use the audio book to really improve my pronunciation. Additionally, I am watching videos on Youtube to improve my understanding!! Finding ways to read a lovely book is part of the fun and really rewarding!
However, one of my personal preferences is to write in my notebook and use it to organize the essential ideas. I note the meaning of difficult words and some explanations for expressions and context.
Writing is a great way to acquire vocabulary if you do it regularly. You can improve your comprehension and your speaking will be more fluid too.
I encourage you to read and improve your skills!!
By María-Verónica Paredes