Reading tips for ESL students at home

Reading tips for ESL students at home

guy rea

Reading in a foreign language is a very important skill. It’s one that you constantly practise in and out of the classroom. You probably haven’t returned to face-to-face classes yet but if you want to improve at home, we can help you. There is variety of different texts we read every day. I’m sure during lockdown you’ve had the time to read more. But remember to make it the right text for you. If you find it boring,  it’s not going to motivate you much and you’ll probably just give up. All of that and more is explained in our guide for reading exercises for ESL students who are at home.

  1. Get the right level of material

Think back to the textbooks and things you read at the start of your English learning journey. Those exercises you did were what we call graded: when you’re at a lower level you have texts that are designed to be read for someone at that level of English. As you progress, the texts you read progress with you, and the level increases as your skills in English and vocabulary do.

Now, if you’re reading at home you need to make sure you are reading things that are the right level for you. If you’re reading things that are too easy, it is a waste of your time. But if you read things that are too hard, you will lose motivation because you won’t understand. So make sure what you read is the right level for you and you’ll stay motivated and gradually see an improvement. It won’t happen overnight, but you know what they say; practice makes perfect.

  1. Choose the right material

Choose material that is the right level and choose the right material – something that a lot of students struggle with. Obviously, we don’t suggest reading the back of shampoo bottles or laundry detergent ingredients for pleasure but what you read needs to be genuine material.

For students who are new to English, you can consider reading song lyrics, recipes, episode summaries,  and menu descriptions. For students who are a bit more experienced with English, you can read well-written fantastic blogs online, magazine articles, comics, catalogues and gossip websites. Students that have a lot of experience in English can consider reading novels, poems, internet forums and letters. There are so many options out there but remember to choose something that’s right for you.

  1. Read what you would normally read in your first language but in English

You’ll notice that we have given you a lot of options and that’s because people are very different. If you don’t usually read poems in your first language then we certainly don’t recommend you doing the same thing in English. The great William Shakespeare is regarded as one of the true masters of English and a linguistic genius. However, a lot of native speakers wouldn’t consider reading his plays outside of school or compulsory educational studies so again we would suggest the same to you. Read what you like at the right level for you. If it’s something you don’t enjoy then it’s not going to motivate you and make you continue.

  1. Read regularly

Reading in a foreign language is a very important skill. We would suggest having a certain time for reading and reading 3 or 4 days a week. This is the only way to improve and this needs to be for around an hour at a time too. Consider, perhaps after lunch, or before you go to bed, or when you wake up. Whenever is best for you really, but it needs to be consistent, whatever you do. There’s no point reading to improve your skills and not doing it regularly. Dedicate a time which is realistic for you and you’ll find that you’ll be much more successful and likely to do it. If you really don’t trust yourself, get someone else to remind you or you can set reminders on your phone.  No excuses.

  1. Take notes

If you knew the meaning of every single word in the English language not only would you not be learning it, but you would also be more knowledgeable than every English speaker. We, of course, do not know every single word in the English language, as is probably the case in your own language. It is impossible that you’ll read something, that is the right level for you, and understand every single word without fail.

Fortunately, we have technology in this day and age and dictionaries. If you don’t have one, you can download an app such as wordreference that will translate words for you. It is also true that it’s possible to read and enjoy a text without understanding every single word. Therefore, my personal recommendation is try to decipher the word or phrase through context. Try and guess what it means. If you’re still not sure , look it up. Write down all the new words you’ve learnt in a notebook for you to revise their meaning.


Rembember reading in a foreign language is a very important skill. Give it a go while you’ve got the time and try to improve you’re reading skills at home. You’ll be making an improvement in no time.

Laura Villa
Laura Villa