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How Important is Reading as an English Skill?

In your English learning journey, would you say that you’ve spent an equal amount of time on the four main skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing? It’s inevitable that you will put a little more emphasis on some more than others according to your motivations and reasons for learning the language in the first place.

Leveraging reading skills is paramount in English language acquisition, as it fosters vocabulary expansion, grammar comprehension, and cultural insight. By regularly engaging with diverse texts, learners effectively boost their speaking, listening, and writing abilities, paving the way for well-rounded proficiency.

Among these 4 core skills, reading is invariably among the most overlooked, along with writing. And yet, those who do overlook are making a critical error, and in today’s article we will explain why. How important is reading as an English skill, and what makes it so important?

Now if this is not your first visit to our humble site you will know how much emphasis we put on reading skills, so we will try, and fail) to be objective about the four skills. Within the article you will also find many links to free (and one paid) resources to help with reading.

Group of children lying reading on grass field

How Important is Reading as an English Skill?

The simple answer is that reading is a very important English skill. The main reason for this is its ability to unite many of the critical linguistic areas such as grammar and vocabulary. On top of this, it’s also a terrific way to boost writing skills as students get to see how well-written prose looks and feels. Reading aloud is also a fantastic way to boost both pronunciation and fluency in the language.

Besides the linguistic benefits, another importance of reading can be found in its flexibility and adaptability to each student’s needs and interests. Since there is reading material on nearly every subject imaginable, not to mention written to suit different language abilities, those who engage in reading will find a veritable treasure trove of material to explore.

What Are the Benefits of Reading in English?

Let’s now look in more detail at the benefits that come from spending one’s time reading as an English learner. we have included the bullet points of these benefits in the table below if you are scan reading this!

Benefit of ReadingDescription
Vocabulary LearningReading exposes learners to new words in context, improving vocabulary retention.
Grammar ImprovementReading provides examples of grammatical structures and their usage in various situations.
Pronunciation and DictionReading aloud helps with pronunciation and understanding sentence intonation.
Flexibility and AdaptabilityReading materials cater to diverse interests and language proficiency levels.
Cultural UnderstandingReading offers insights into the culture, history, and values of English-speaking countries.

Reading Benefits Vocabulary Learning

To start with, reading is among the most effective ways for learners to boost their vocabulary knowledge. Some get their vocabulary from flashcards and special books, which is fine up to a point, but will never match the lasting power that reading has on vocabulary retention.

It can feel easy for students to learn words from flashcards, but the trouble is that they aren’t seeing the words used in any kind of natural context, even when they are given example sentences with each word. This all changes with reading.

When reading a magazine or newspaper article, a book, or some other written material, the learner is seeing words used naturally and in their right context. They see what words collocate together, where in the sentence these words are typically placed, and much more (more on grammar below).

They quickly get a sense of how different words with similar meanings are used in different situations, and since they are reading, understanding and perhaps pronouncing (if reading aloud) the words, they are better able to retain knowledge of them.

It Helps Improve Grammar

Similar to vocabulary practice, reading provides learners with invaluable insight into different grammatical structures and how they can be used in different situations.

Where vocabulary is concerned, they can see how the words change according to tense, subject and number (singular versus plural), and also how words collocate with other words.

For example, extensive reading will show hundreds of examples of how phrasal verbs and prepositions are paired together, allowing students to quickly and more easily familiarize themselves with these tricky grammar points.

That’s valuable information, particularly where prepositions are concerned and there is no real “trick” or “pattern” to learning their use other than simply through experience and practice.

difference high frequency and dolch words

Reading Aloud Improves Pronunciation and Diction

While it’s true that reading in silence doesn’t help with pronunciation, those who can read their materials aloud will get invaluable practice in pronouncing difficult words. Beyond that, they will also be able to pronounce them as part of the wider intonation of a complete sentence, something that those practicing pronunciation from flashcards or vocabulary apps won’t be able to do as effectively.

Reading through even a single passage aloud gives learners the opportunity to master multiple vocabulary words, pronouncing them within different sentences and contexts.

Through this experience, they can not only gain mastery in understanding, but can gain invaluable practice for their speaking at the same time.

We have articles on all the four main English language skills here on the site, you can check them out anytime.

It’s Easier Than Ever to Practice

Reading practice doesn’t mean lugging around heavy hardback books anymore! For many years now, we as a society have been embracing new devices such as e-readers and tablet computers.

All of these support apps that allow us to store hundreds or even thousands of books in one convenient place, and anytime we have a spare moment we can whip them out and do some reading: when we’re on the bus or subway, when we have free time in our workplace, and even when we’re standing in line for coffee.

Because these devices are backlit, as well as light and highly portable, we can also now enjoy reading any time of day, meaning we can conduct our reading and wider study schedule according to our real schedule and not just according to when we can sit at a desk with our books and notepaper spread out and a tiny lamp lighting our way.

You Can Read on Subjects That Interest You

Learning English, or any other foreign language, is a difficult and time-consuming process. Along the way, there will be many opportunities to give up, and learners often feel as though they are working hard but not making real progress.

This is especially common among students who have reached an intermediate level of English but are struggling to get to a more advanced stage.

The beauty of reading as an English skill is that you can practice your skills by reading subjects that are of genuine interest to you, and ignoring those that are not. In most academic fields, you are required to read on that same subject — physics majors read about physics, law students about law, and so on — but when it comes to learning English as a foreign language, any reading material can be useful, as long as it’s written in the language!

So, let’s say you have a penchant for fast cars and everything automotive. You could find great value (and pleasure) in reading car magazines or online blogs, as well as biographies of famous drivers, and much more. I use dinosaurs as my hook for students as the phonetics and subject matter are perfect for children. So much so we even have a sister site on them full of reading materials!

You could also get practice reading subtitles watching popular TV series about cars such as Top Gear from the UK. That would also benefit your listening skills at the same time. As long as you are observing and absorbing the English language, you can pick the topics.

Strategies for Effective Reading:

To become a proficient reader in English, it’s essential to develop effective reading strategies.

  • Firstly, practice skimming by quickly scanning the text to identify its overall theme and structure. This will help you navigate and comprehend the material more efficiently. You are probably doing this skill with this very article.
  • Secondly, employ scanning techniques to locate specific information, such as names, dates, or keywords. Active reading involves engaging with the text by asking questions, making predictions, and visualizing the content. This deeper involvement enhances understanding and retention.
  • thirdly, setting realistic goals and tracking your progress will keep you motivated and focused on improvement. Don’t forget to experiment with different approaches to find what works best for you, as every learner is unique.

there are other more basic skills needed to get to the levels above, but if you are reading this you are either quite advanced, or a teacher! So if you need those more fundamental skills you can check out our resources here for pre readers or our resources on reading on the whole site here.

Reading Materials for Different Levels:

Choosing appropriate reading materials is crucial to ensure steady progress in your / your students language proficiency.

For beginners, graded readers offer simplified texts, which allow learners to gain confidence while building vocabulary and comprehension.

As your skills advance, consider exploring newspapers and magazines that cover various topics, from current affairs to lifestyle and entertainment. Online resources like blogs, news websites, and short stories cater to a wide range of interests and proficiency levels.

For more advanced learners, dive into novels, essays, and academic articles to challenge your reading abilities further.

We have hundreds of reading resources on the site you can access from a search or if you want them all in one place we have a 350+ set of materials with readers and phonics activities and worksheets ready to go on the link below.

Keep in mind that it’s essential to strike a balance between materials that are slightly challenging and those that you or your children / students can read comfortably, as this will facilitate both skill development and enjoyment in the learning process.

Proficiency LevelSuggested Reading Materials
BeginnerGraded readers, simplified texts
IntermediateNewspapers, magazines, blogs, short stories
AdvancedNovels, essays, academic articles, biographies, texts covering complex subjects or themes

Overcoming Challenges in Reading:

English learners often encounter challenges while reading, but with the right strategies, these obstacles can be overcome. When faced with unfamiliar vocabulary, use context clues to deduce the meaning of words or keep a vocabulary journal to note new terms and review them regularly.

When encountering idiomatic expressions or cultural references, research their origins and meanings to enhance your comprehension. To maintain concentration, break reading sessions into manageable chunks and take short breaks in between.

Experiment with different reading environments and identify what works best for you, whether it’s a quiet room or background music.

By addressing these challenges, you’ll develop resilience and steadily improve your reading skills.

Reading as a Gateway to Cultural Understanding:

Reading not only strengthens your language skills but also offers valuable insights into the culture, history, and values of English-speaking countries. By exploring diverse texts, you’ll gain exposure to various perspectives, enhancing your cultural competence and global awareness.

Engaging with materials such as novels, biographies, essays, and even comics can reveal the nuances of everyday life and societal issues in these countries.

As you delve deeper into the world of English literature, you’ll develop a richer understanding of the contexts in which the language is used, fostering empathy and promoting effective cross-cultural communication.

Integrating Reading into Daily Life:

Consistent practice is key to improving your reading skills, and incorporating reading into your everyday routine can facilitate this. Set aside dedicated time each day for reading, whether it’s during your morning commute or before bed.

Join book clubs or participate in online forums and discussions in English to connect with like-minded individuals, share your thoughts, and gain new insights. Challenge yourself by periodically exploring new genres, styles, or authors, as this will broaden your horizons and keep your reading practice fresh and engaging.

By making reading an integral part of your daily life, you’ll not only enhance your language skills but also cultivate a lifelong love for literature.

before we give our opinion on how important reading is, we jsut want to highlight resources we have on the site with more information, we also have other sites thoughts below as well.

Importance of Reading in Relation to Other English Skills:

While each of the four core English skills – speaking, listening, reading, and writing – holds its significance, reading often serves as a foundation for the development of the other skills. By dedicating time to reading, you are indirectly enhancing your speaking, listening, and writing abilities as well.

Reading exposes you to a wide range of vocabulary and grammatical structures, which enriches your spoken and written communication. By observing sentence construction and the use of idiomatic expressions in context, you become more adept at utilizing them in your own speech and writing.

Reading aloud, in particular, offers opportunities to practice pronunciation, intonation, and rhythm, thus improving your speaking skills.

In terms of listening, reading equips you with the necessary vocabulary and understanding of language patterns, making it easier to comprehend spoken English in various contexts. The more familiar you are with the language through reading, the better you’ll be at identifying and deciphering the spoken word, even in challenging listening situations.

While all four skills are crucial to achieving English proficiency, reading serves as a powerful catalyst for overall language development. By prioritizing reading practice, you are not only enhancing your reading comprehension but also fostering growth in your speaking, listening, and writing abilities.

So grab that book and dive in!

Further reading

I have been a teacher of English for over 15 years, in that time i made hundreds and thousands of resources and learnt so much i think its worth sharing. Hopefully to help teachers and parents around the world.

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