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2 March 2015
Reading and writing are both important aspects of learning a new language. Our schools around the UK have been celebrating World Book Day and held creative writing competitions and activities to help our students develop these important skills.
World Book Day is a national celebration of reading – one of the best ways to improve your English. Reading in a second language requires you to decode words quickly and automatically, and helps you to build fluency and comprehension skills faster than those students that don't read. Native speakers understand the written word at about 300 words per minute, so it's vital that students get regular practise of reading in English to get to this level. Things like timed and paced reading activities, reading aloud and word recognition exercises are important in helping you to understand the text.
Regular exposure to reading material at or just below your comprehension level is the ideal way to develop your processing skills of the language. Public libraries often have a section of graded language books for students learning a second language, and all of our schools have an abundance of reading materials to help you practise your reading skills.
One of the best ways of reading is to skim read quickly through the text first, to get an overall understanding of the content and the ideas behind it. Then, go back to the beginning and read in more detail and see if you can identify new pieces of information you didn't see before. Take a look at this video clip from the Polyglot Dream for a ten minute tutorial on tips for effective reading in a foreign language.
Just as important as reading is writing. Generally speaking, if you can write it, you can speak it! So learning good writing skills is the key to being able to speak good English. Writing is an excellent way to practise using vocabulary and sentence structure and a great opportunity to express yourself and share your creativity and your opinions. It also gives you the chance to take a little more time over the use of language and to really think about the words you are using and in what context.
To mark World Book Day we asked our students to write a short story on any theme or genre of between 600-900 words. The results were fantastic - you can see what some of the students produced here: