Updated: Apr 5, 2020
Here's a handy infographic about some useful websites that you could use to boost your students' reading skills and teach them reading strategies.
What are reading skills by the way and why do we need them?
A skilled reader doesn't mean that they understand each and every word in the text. It would be foolish to think so because someone could understand all the words in the entire dictionary but they might still lack the necessary skills and strategies to successfully read and understand a text. So what are these skills and strategies?
When we read we not only analyse the words in isolation but we connect them and consider the meaning that is expressed by them. In that sense we use are semantic and pragmatic knowledge to understand a passage. Semantic knowledge means that we understand the sentence, while pragmatic knowledge is that we can read between the lines and we can even understand hints, jokes, irony or sarcasm. Already at this point someone, who only knows the words by heart, would fail because they cannot process extra hidden meanings that are so common in everyday writing.
Skilled readers should also be quite quick. We wouldn't really call someone a good reader who reads a page in 2 hours. Mind you, those who read a book in an hour might not be so good readers either. There are many speed reading courses out there but speed is not everything! What's important is that you can link the letter together into words, the words into clauses and so on quite seamlessly.
Moreover, a good reader should be able to see or imagine what's written down. If they cannot process the actual content, then they are only reading words that will never become a living entity. If they cannot do this, nor can they react to any piece of writing as a speaking or writing task.
And reading strategies?
These are basically helping crutches that even native speakers use when they want to read better. It's not something only bad students have to turn to. These steps can all help students understand the text better without stressing about the unknown words and the length too much.
Predicting - from the first sentence or title what's going to happen
Recognising context - identifying the text type or genre, the source, the author
Scanning - looking for one item of information while screening out unnecessary information
Skimming - getting the general idea of the text; is it interesting? is it relevant for me?
Recognising functions - what's the purpose of this? what does the writer want?
Extracting details - paying close attention to anything that might be important
Deducting meaning from context - guessing the meaning of a word from the sentence without looking it immediately up in the dictionary
Recognising structure/patterns - noticing how the text and its arguments are organised, how many parts are there? what is going to come after what? where is the most important information?