Potential Barriers to Reading Extensively and Solutions
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Especially if you are not used to reading frequently or reading in English, you may feel discouraged initially. You may not even get started because you think it will be too difficult or not enjoyable. If you feel or think this way, you may be robbing yourself of the opportunity to use English as an additional way to learn information and to read for pleasure.
It does not help to focus on what you do or do not do, so let’s look at some possible barriers and how to overcome them. In fact, these barriers may be the same that stop you from reading in your own language even though you cannot say that you do not know the language well enough to read.
“I don't know how to get started”
If you are not used to reading independently everyday, it may be difficult to know how to get started. You are not sure on what topic to read, what materials to read, or how often and how long you should do it.
Recommended steps to get you started
Step 1. Plan and commit to time for reading.
Think of the best time during your day for 15-20 minutes of extensive reading. That will be your “time to enjoy yourself reading something.” Then follow through.
People tend to read this step and take no action. Do it. Actually plan a time for reading.
That “15-20 minutes” is not a rule. Adjust the time according to your needs.
Step 2. Choose your topic or topics well.
The topics you are already interested in are the best starting point. Interests are personal. It does not matter what you are interested in, but you will likely want to keep reading about it if you are already interested in it.
List what interests you the most. It could be anything: cooking, the news, pop culture, sports, short stories or novels, home improvement, science and technology, health and fitness, theater, astronomy, arts and crafts, movies, travel, history, art, earth science, music, camping, photography, and on and on…
Step 3. Find some materials or sources.
Find suitable sources (books, newspapers, magazines, websites…), preferably in the interests you listed above.
Be sure the materials are authentic; that is, they are not designed to teach reading or teach the language, nor are they an instructor’s assignment.
Be sure they are not too easy or too difficult for you. Read at or just above your reading level.
Step 4. Use your “time to enjoy yourself reading something.”
Spend the time you planned (Step 1) reading your selected topics (Step 2) and materials (Step 3) for at least 15-20 minutes.
Try not to get caught up on understanding all the vocabulary or grammar. Just focus on enjoying and understanding the content as much as possible.
If you start reading something and it turns out to be too difficult or if you are not enjoying it, stop reading it. Remember that extensive reading is not “an assignment.”
Step 5. Be consistent.
Especially at first, stick to your plan. If you let it become part of your daily routine, you will likely start reading a lot without even thinking about it.
“I’m too busy.”
You may need to “force” yourself to make some time at first until your “time to enjoy yourself reading something” becomes a habit. Most very busy people spend time everyday checking their social media, playing computer games, chatting with their friends, watching TV, and so on. They do not think of the amount of time they spend doing those things because they do them out of habit. If you give it a try, you may see reading as something enjoyable you do rather than as a time-consuming activity that you “must” do.
Here are some suggestions that should help you create a reading habit:
Suggestions to create a reading habit
Do you have a plan? Are you sticking to that plan?
Are you consistent? Reading will become part of your daily routine if you do it often each week, not just now and again.
Do you have materials that interest you?
Are you reading at the right level?
- Are your materials boring? They may be too easy.
- Are your materials frustrating to read? They may be too difficult.
Do you have a quiet place where you can just relax, without interruptions? If you think you do not, try going to the bathroom and locking the door, for example.
“I don't really have any hobbies or interests”
You very probably do have interests; you are just not aware of them yet. If you believe you have no interests, then you have a very good reason to read extensively. You may simply need to spend some time trying to figure out what your interests are.
Reflect on the interests you may not know you have
Talking with Family and Friends
When you meet your friends, what do you talk about?
- Your children? You may be interested in reading about child rearing and psychology.
- About a restaurant you like? You may enjoy reading food blogs or about the food business.
- About politics? Reading newspaper articles and political blogs may interest you.
- About your dog or cat? You may be interested in pets, wildlife, and natural sciences.
- About a new app for your smartphone or about your new computer gadget? You may be interested in science and technology.
When you watch TV, what kind of programming do you like?
- Science fiction or adventure movies? You may be interested in reading about science and technology, and travel and exploration.
- Nature documentaries? You may be interested in reading about wildlife, the environment, and travel.
- Drama? Romance? You may be interested in reading history books, literature, and biographies.
What do you do when you have free time?
- Do you sit around looking at your plants or tend to your plants? You may be interested in reading about gardening and botany.
- Do you try old and new recipes or just put together new dishes on your own? You may be interested in reading food blogs, food magazines, and cook books.
- Do you look at photos online? You may be interested in reading photography blogs, magazines, and books.
- Do you play board games, put puzzles together, or play computer games? You may be interested in reading about games and computer gaming.
- Do you go for a run, get some exercise, or practice yoga? You may be interested in reading about diet, wellness, and fitness.
The possibilities are endless…
This list could go on and on. The point is that, even when we think we “have no interests,” there are a number of things that grab our interest more than others. You may not yet realize what your interests are but, once you get started reading, you will figure them out.
“It is difficult for me to read in English.”
It gets easier if you practice. The advantage of extensive reading is that you read what and when you choose to read. No one is forcing you to understand a passage. You do not have to answer comprehension questions or learn the vocabulary in a passage. You are not reading for a test.
We read to learn information, and that is what extensive reading is all about. As you read what and when you choose to read more and more, reading gets easier and more enjoyable. All you have to do is get started and keep doing it.
Up Next: Resources for Extensive Reading for ELLs
Continue the lesson to learn about resources you can use to read extensively.