Sitting in class, the teacher called on one student to read out-loud from the textbook. Before he began, he nervously paused and glanced upwards at his nearby classmates. He began to read slowly, almost word by word, and stopped every few phrases to collect his thoughts. Difficult words were met with an awkward pause until rescued by the teacher. Most of the students in the class had already finished reading the section quietly to themselves as the boy was still not yet half way through the passage…
Perhaps all of us have had some sort of similar experience where a fellow classmate or friend struggled with reading. For fluent readers, it can be painful to watch one struggle. For poor readers, it creates embarrassment and reluctance to read. So what makes a person a good or bad reader?
The Vicious Cycle of the Weak Reader
Poor readers are not born poor readers. Considerable research into the area has found that poor readers simply do not read much, which makes sense. However, the cause runs a bit deeper.
Typically, poor readers started out reading books or materials that they didn’t understand very well, usually because it was too hard or was an uninteresting subject to the reader; because they didn’t understand it, they read slowly; because it’s difficult to understand and they read slowly, they don’t enjoy reading. This all leads to not reading very much and “the vicious circle of the weak reader” perpetuates itself.
The Virtuous Cycle of the Good Reader
Good readers start out reading books that they can understand or work through until they can understand it; because they can understand it, they read faster; because they understand and read faster, they enjoy reading. This leads to reading more and thus perpetuates “the virtuous cycle of the good reader”.
How to Create Good Readers
If you or somebody you know is stuck in the “vicious cycle” or you want to become a good reader, the solution is rather simple.
1) Read books you can understand
Don’t start reading something that is too hard! Start reading books that are at or, preferably, below your level. This is where graded readers come into play whether you are studying English, Chinese, Spanish, or German.
2) Read books you will enjoy
Just because something is at your level doesn’t mean it’s interesting. Find books that you want to read! Having something enjoyable to read does wonders for learner motivation and is essential for developing a good reader.
Our recommendation? Read. Read as much as you can. You’ll be hard pressed to find someone who has mastered a second language who is not also a good reader.