Teaching English

10 Tips to Learn English with Books

Some tips about books, reading and the words we are still looking for.

When people are learning English, they tend to read books someone chose for them and just because they have to. This is the first problem and it makes reading far less productive as reading a book just because you feel like it. Do you want to learn English effectively? Start reading books in English for pleasure. Here are 10 tips to learn English with books. 


Find the perfect book for you

Finding the perfect book is the most important step you have to take. If you start reading a book you don’t really like, you will most likely stop reading before you even get through the first chapter. In other words, forget what others like to read and think about what you love. If you are into thrillers, then go for those, but if you are into romantic stories, for instance, then that’s what you should be reading.


Get the book

The second step is to get the book. You can buy a brand-new copy in a bookstore or you can look for the book you chose in a second-hand bookseller. It depends on how much you are willing to spend. By the way, from time to time, up2dateSKILLS posts a selection of affordable second-hand books in English for you to choose from. If you are willing to give these 10 tips a try, you should definitely visit our online shop to see if there are any books available. 

As an alternative, you can also download books online if you’re into e-Books. I wouldn’t go that way though if you are not a comfortable reader yet. First, an e-Book might not be suitable to put the tips I have for you into practice. Second, it’s not a physical thing, so you can easily forget that you have to read it. A printed book has its own way of getting your attention. It reaches out whenever you look at it. It talks to you…

‘I’m here.’

‘I’ve been waiting for you.’

‘Where have you been?’

‘Let’s share some thoughts.’

‘Read me!’


I know, I know… I made it sound like a clingy book. But it’s the one I have chosen.


Don’t worry about every single word you read

When you are not a comfortable reader, a book in a foreign language can be quite overwhelming. Don’t worry about every single word you are not familiar with, keep reading. Above all, the goal is to understand the main idea. 

Reading a story that you are already familiar with might help if you are just starting. You can get books that inspired some of your favorite movies, for instance, and you can even watch the movie later and get some work done with that too.


Set up a reading plan

Making a feasible reading plan is especially important for people who don’t have reading habits or those who are more goal-oriented. Not living up to your expectations is discouraging, thus the importance of being realistic when planning your reading time. The number of pages you commit to should be something you are able to accomplish on your worst days and 0 pages is not an option! Post your reading plan on social media and share some updates with your friends and followers.


Don’t feel sorry for the book. Use it!

Remember you got this book to use as a learning tool, so don’t pity the book. Books don’t need compassion. They need to be read and used. Use the book you chose as if it were a notebook. How? Well, you’ll have to read tip number 6 to find out.


Mark 2 new words per page, tops

Use a colored highlighter, pen, or pencil to mark a maximum of 2 words per page. Using color makes the new words visually appealing. I strongly suggest highlighting the new words with your favorite markers. You can use post-its instead. You have to stick to 2 words or less and you have to come to terms with the fact that you won’t be able to understand every single word you read. Sorry...


Don’t stop reading to look up the new words

Stopping to look up the meaning of new words in a dictionary is too time-consuming and counterproductive. It would completely break the flow of your reading. Why highlight new words then? Tip number 8 will fill you in on the purpose of marking new words.


Boost your vocabulary with index cards

Although you don’t really have to go back to all the words you have highlighted, it will definitely boost your vocabulary if you do so at the end of each chapter. If your book doesn’t have chapters, you can look up those words in a dictionary at the end of each reading session or at the beginning of a new one. Then,

(A) write the meaning (and translation if necessary) of the word in an index card; you can create them yourself or you can get them at a stationery store;

(B) copy the sentence from the book into the index card too, so that you can learn the new word within a context and if the sentence in the book is too difficult, look for an easier example sentence in a dictionary.


Create a scrapbook for book quotes

Getting a notebook just for quotes from the books you read is highly recommended. We suggest you get a disc-bound notebook for that because it will allow you to organize your quotes into different topics and add new sentences to each section any time you want. You can have a section for sentences that are inspirational for some reason, you can have sentences related to topics you are studying at school, or sentences that might come in handy at work or when you travel.


Spread the word

If you’re on social media, you should try and take advantage of the time you spend there. Share your task with your friends and followers. Give them weekly updates on your reading plan. Share inspirational quotes and a couple of new words you have learned. Do it on a regular basis and include that in your reading plan. Some people will comment on your posts and share encouraging words. Some might make fun of you for posting in English. Be ready for that too, and don’t let it discourage you. You are bigger than that and so is your purpose. One way or the other, the good thing is you will be going back to those sentences and those new words over and over again and you’ll end up becoming familiar with them.

If you follow these tips, I assure you your English language skills will improve.


If you’re brave enough, read the book again!

I suggest taking an English Level Test before reading the book and taking another one after reading the book, and even a third if you are brave enough to read the book twice. You can take an English Level Test for free here, at up2dateSKILLS.com. And you can repeat it as often as you would like. You will get an email after each test. And you can compare them after reading the book.

Reading our post on the importance of taking English Level Tests might also be interesting.

By no means am I trying to undervalue the power of taking lessons with a teacher. Actually, I am a language teacher and I know how far a learner can go just by taking lessons. However, learning a language in a classroom is a slow process, especially if you are taking group lessons and most students in your class have different language levels.

Taking English lessons is extremely important and it becomes even more effective if you complement the skills you learn in class with additional activities. There are multiple things with the potential to speed up the process of learning a new language, such as reading a book, watching a movie, or even singing a song. Whatever way you choose to go, you will be creating language exposure and that is the key to improve your English language skills.

To sum up, books can be used to improve our language skills effectively. However, reading them is just a good start, but it is far from being all you could do. You should put some time and work into it. If you are not used to reading in English, you should seriously consider mastering these 10 Tips to Learn English with Books about books. In doing so, you will boost your reading skills and maybe find the words you were still be looking for.

I would love to hear your thoughts on these tips. Please don’t hesitate to use the comment section below.

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