Easy Guide: How to learn English by Reading Books

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Are you someone who struggles to communicate in English?

To speak and write in English fluently? Then the guidelines I am going to share in this post are for YOU!

Some of you might wonder what makes me the RIGHT person to do that!

You see, I am a non-native speaker, which means my first language is not English. Moreover, not being a native English speaker gives me the benefit of understanding the STRUGGLE of anyone who tries to improve their English language skills.

I had struggled a lot, just like you, to be able to communicate in English. I was rejected in many interviews because I couldn’t speak English very well. As a result, it affected my self-confidence!

It took me a lot of effort to be fluent in English. Later on, I even got a job as an English teacher! However, I am constantly learning and improving my language skills.

I never realized the relevance of reading in refining language skills until two years ago.

I always thought movies are far more exciting than books.

But when I started reading I did see a drastic difference in the way I speak and write. Which made me realize that I should have done more reading in the early stages of language learning!

So In today’s post, I have put together some of the easy and effective strategies that helped me learn English.

Read further to find out why you should read more books if you want to develop effective communication skills in English.

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How can reading improve your language skills?

When I wanted to improve my English language skills I was told by many people that reading is the best way to improve language skills. But nobody really explained how exactly it helped.

I had figured out after reading many books that, reading can improve THREE fundamental aspects of communication.

1. Reading helps to improve your communication skills by describing things better.

This is the best part of books. You will learn to describe things. I wasn’t an avid reader when I began to learn English, as a result, I find it difficult to put my thoughts into words. Moreover, I lacked clarity in my speaking and writing.

Often I struggled to get the right word to convey exactly what I wanted to say!

For instance say, you want to describe a castle or palace you last visited, to a friend.

How would you say it?

Probably you will say  “The castle was big and beautiful”!
It’s grammatically correct but don’t you think it’s short and vague?

Do you think you were able to describe exactly what you saw there, and your friend got the exact picture of the castle?

Let’s have look at how a book would explain! This is from one of the best children’s classics, The Secret Garden.

The entrance door was a huge one made of massive, curiously shaped panels of oak studded with big iron nails and bound with great iron bars. It opened into an enormous hall, which was so dimly lighted that the faces in the portraits on the walls and the figures

Frances Hodgson Burnett- The Secret Garden!

What do you think your friend would have visualized if you described it this way?

Some of you might be thinking, There Is No Way anybody would explain it this way!!

Well, I get it.

These are a bit too detailed in speaking context. However, regular reading of these will help you to develop clarity in your thoughts and next time when you see a castle you will be able to recall at least some of the words!

Give it a try and see for yourself!

2. Reading can improve and expand your vocabulary

There isn’t a better way to boost your vocabulary than reading!

 A new book can always give you at least five new words! But remember you should never read with a dictionary. The technique here is to try and understand the meaning of the words through the situations.

You may need to refer to the dictionary sometimes. However, try to avoid checking the meaning of the new words in every sentence. Get the help of the dictionary only if the context is unclear.

Another advantage of books is learning synonyms (a set of two or more words which has the same meaning).

For instance in the sentence: They live in a big house near Alberta, how many other words can you think instead of “big”?

You can say: huge, large or gigantic. These are called SYNONYMS!

Reading can also help us understand the meaning of the same words in different contexts.

Look at these two sentences:

  • They live in a big house near Alberta.
  • It’s your big day.  

Do you know the word ” big” in both sentences refers to different meanings?

In the first sentence, it refers to the size of the house,  whereas in the second sentence it refers to the “importance” of that particular day!

3. Reading can improve your grammar and sentence structure

Novels help you to perfect the structure of the sentences, AKA Grammar!  

I always find Reading is a better way to understand the complicated grammatical rules that we hated in high school! But, do not take novels as the ultimate guide to the grammar lessons. They are ONLY a set of example sentences in books to help you understand the rules of English Grammar.

What books Should English language Learners Read?

There are a lot of books which are published particularly for English Learners. Most of them are written according to the Learners’ level. Which means the publishers make less complex versions of classics. Most sentences are short and words are more easy to understand.

The well-known publishers are Penguin readers, Cambridge University Press, Oxford Bookworms library!

So before you choose a book, find out your level. Give it a try here

Always remember that these tests are not always complete assessment of your language skills. Sometimes you might find the results of these texts are higher or lower than you had expected.

If you think the level test wasn’t enough to test your level, choose a book from the level the test recommended. And start reading a couple of pages. If you are able to understand the book you choose, then you are at that particular level.

Why Should You Read Simple English Books?

I used to read the short classics from Penguin readers and Cambridge University press and it really helped me to understand the book really well in my earlier reading stages.

Once you think you have improved your reading and beginning to enjoy it, you can always go back and read the full version of the books.

Let me give you an example of one of my favorite books-Black Beauty written by Anna Sewell.

The book has 245 pages and 48 chapters!. The book is pretty short and easy for an average reader. But a bit too difficult for Elementary or Preintermediate level English learners. Penguin Readers have published a short version, 48 pages of this book.

Have a look at the first few lines from the first chapter of Original Book :

“The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end. Over the hedge on one side we looked into a plowed field, and on the other we looked over a gate at our master’s house, which stood by the roadside; at the top of the meadow was a grove of fir trees, and at the bottom a running brook overhung by a steep bank.While I was young I lived upon my mother’s milk, as I could not eat grass. In the daytime I ran by her side, and at night I lay down close by her.When it was hot we used to stand by the pond in the shade of the trees, and when it was cold we had a nice warm shed near the grove.

Now let’s see the lines from  Penguin Young Readers: Level 2

“I don’t remember everything about my first months of life. I remember a big field of green grass with one or two trees in it. One hot day my mother stood under a tree and I drank her milk. That was before I got bigger. Then I started to eat grass.”

Did you notice the difference in writing and vocabulary? For a beginner or preintermediate level learner this is much more convenient than the original writing.

Once you start to enjoy reading, switch to reading unabridged versions to learn new vocabulary!

You may find some classic books which are already short. However, That doesn’t mean they are easy to read. So make sure to read a few pages to find out!

Choose Your favorite English Genre (with examples)

Remember to choose a book that you will actually READ!

In order to improve your English skills, you should never choose a historical book to read if you know the details of war and political views will put you to sleep instantly.

Instead of encouraging you to read, it will bore you and you will lose interest!

Personally, I love children’s books, they are a great way to fall in love with reading. Have you ever reread your childhood favorites?  I am sure you will still enjoy the story!

Let’s have a look at the list I created about popular Genres with examples:

Genre     Description     Examples.
Adventure These books tell exciting or daring stories. Incidents in a strange island or dangerous voyage to an unknown place1. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn– Mark Twain
2. The treasure Island-Robert Louis Stevenson
Chick LitThese books are female Centred stories. The struggles and crisis in their lives.1. Can You Keep a Secret?– Sophie Kinsella
2. Rachel’s Holiday by Marian Keyes
Fairy Tale/ FolkloreThese are stories of good versus evil. Folk tales are traditional stories that began in the oral tradition. Fairy Tales may involve elves, giants, and fairies.1. The Light Princess– George MacDonald
2. Aesop’s Fable– Aesop
FantasyThese stories are set in an imaginary world. You often find magical creatures. 1. Alice In Wonderland– Lewis Carroll
2. Harry Potter– J.K. Rowling

HorrorStories which involve supernatural powers such as a ghost or vampires!1. Dracula– Bram Stoker
2. Rosemary’s Baby– Ira Levin
MysteryThese stories often involve an investigation or a crime1. The adventures of Sherlock Holmes– Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
2. The Da Vinci Code– Dan Brown
RealismThese stories can be about real people who lived at the time of the story or the social situations in that particular period.
1. Of mice and Men– John Steinbeck
2. To Kill A Mockingbird– Harper Lee
RomanceThese are love stories. They can often  have happy or sad endings1. Sense and Sensibility– Jane Austen
2. Jane Eyre– Charlotte Bronte

Science Fiction( Sci-fi)
These are stories told in the background of science. These are often set in the future.1. Story of Your life– Ted Chiang
2. The time machine– H.G. wells
Non- fictionThese books are based on an actual story or people. It can be of any topic; about a country, war or personal development. 1. India after Gandhi– Ramachandra Guha
2. I am Malala– Malala Yousafzai

Now you know about the Genres, it’s time for you to find out the more Books!

12 Simple Novels for You To read In English:

You can find so many books available in an easier version.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit: Beatrix Potter

How to learn English faster: Easy English reads: Peter Rabit

This book is written by Beatrix Potter. This the story of naughty Peter Rabbit and his brothers and sisters. I am sure you will never be too old to read children’s stories. This book has been made into the movie in 2018!

Fantastic Mr. Fox: Roald Dahl

Easy English books: Fantastic Mr.fox

Have you heard of Roald Dahl? He is a renowned Children’s author. In this book, he writes about the life of Mr. Fox and his friends.

Do you enjoy reading stories of animals? then give it a read.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Lewis Caroll

Easy English books to learn English: Alice's adventures in wonderland.

You must have heard about this book a lot when you were in school. This story is about a girl who ends up in a completely different world. There are a lot of strange characters.

I am sure this would be a fun read.

TREASURE ISLAND: Robert Louis Stevenson

Easy English books to learn English:  Treasure Island

Are you a fan of adventure stories? then this one is for you. The story takes place in the days of ships, pirates, and treasure!

David Copperfield: Charles Dickens

Easy English books to learn English: David Copperfield.

This is a classic novel from one of the famous writers, Charles Dickens. This book narrates the life of David. Including his childhood memories, family and his life as an adult.

Gulliver’s Travels: Jonathan Swift

Easy English books to learn English: Gulliver's Travels

What would you do when you end up on an unknown island with strange people? Well, you will find out in this book what Gulliver did. He ends up in an Island called Lilliput, where little people live.

Ali and His Camera: Raymond Pizante

Easy guide: How to learn English by reading simple books

Do you love taking photos? How do you take them? Well, the boy is in this story is just like you. He loves to take pictures of places and people in Istanbul but he doesn’t have own camera.

Find out whether he is able to buy one his own.

The Incredible Journey: Sheila Burnford

Easy English books to learn English:  The incredible Journey.

If you love pets this one’s for you. This book narrates the incredible journey of two dogs and a cat traveling through mountains and rivers to find their owners!

The Blue Umbrella- Ruskin bond

Easy Guide: How to learn English by reading

This is a short and easy Indian novel, about the life of a girl in a small village. Written in simple language this is a perfect book for anyone looking for a short and easy read. You will find many fun characters to amuse you in this book.

The curious incident of the dog in the night-time : Mark Haddon

Easy Guide: How to learn English by reading

This is the story of a boy, Christopher Boone. He is autistic and lives with his father. One day he discovers a dead body of his neighbor’s dog. Later de decides to investigate the murder. This book is all about the life of an autistic boy and it’s thoughts. It’s rather complex in theme but you will get to enjoy the humor as well.

Where the Red Fern Grows: Wilson Rawls

Easy Guide: How to learn English by reading

Do you love dogs? Do you have your own? Well, you would want to have one after reading this book. This is a heartwarming and adventurous story about a boy a pair of redbone coon hounds. Children love this book.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Mark Twain

Easy Guide: How to learn English by reading : The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

This book is all about childhood-fun and adventure. The story takes place in the 1840s.

Learn English Through Audiobooks:

Audiobooks are a great way to enjoy books if you have other tasks or you have to commute to work or college.

I love listening to them when I am walking or doing house chores. In this way, you will be able to “read” and “listen” more books.

Another thing about audiobooks is that they will help you learn the pronunciation and intonation of new words or sentences.

Where to find audiobooks for English Learners?

Unlike paper books, there isn’t anything available only for English Learners. But you can always choose children’s books.

There are a lot of free resources where you can listen to audiobooks. Two of my favorite free websites are Librivox , Lit2go. You can also download the app.

Here are some of the books from these websites:

Adventures of Reddy fox- Librivox

The story of Doctor Dolittle- Lit2go

The outdoor girls in Florida- Lit2go

Squinty, the Comical Pig: His Many Adventures- Lit2go

The Bird’s Christmas Carol- Lit2go

Practise, Practise, Practise:

Once you finish reading or listening to a book always WRITE about it!

This is a great way to understand the story and learn to narrate the book to others. You can write the review in a notepad or you can write in Goodreads ( a website for searching books and writing reviews).

Along with that, you can also discuss the story with your friends. This way you will learn to practice your English speaking skills. If you find it difficult to find a friend who is interested in books, you can talk your own and use the voice recorder app on your phone! Later listen to it.

Here is a quick guide to write or talk about a book. Always ask yourself a set of questions about the book:

  • What was the type of story? (Refer to the genre table above)
  • What was the story? (eg: a love story of two people, story of a child)
  • Where did the story take place? (eg: A city, a village or another planet)
  • What do you like about the book? (eg: funny, romantic, interesting characters)
  • What you don’t like about the book? (eg: sometimes boring, didn’t understand the ending)
  • Do I recommend the book to others?

READ The Web:

So far I have been talking about reading stories or novels. Once you developed a habit of reading try to expand the types of texts.

If you are someone who is not keen on reading newspapers you have plenty of other options!! You can read different types of blogs, tweets or magazines according to your interest!

There are many websites that put all the interesting articles together. They are called aggregators!

MIX– Show interesting content from different websites

Digg- Collects stories from different topics such as Health, food.

Feedly– An excellent way to follow what’s happening in almost all industry, from Knitting to Technology

Metacritic– I am sure this is going to be a favorite one for many of you. This is a review aggregator for movies, Tv shows games and music!

What other ways to improve English other than reading?

Well, there are so many ways!

Youtube – Watch your favorite videos with subtitles! ( click the cc symbol)

Tongue Twisters – Great way to prepare your tongue for pronunciation

Podcast – A great way to listen to English spoken in a variety of contexts and industries. British Council Learn English Podcast is a great one!

Final thoughts:

Don’t be disappointed if you didn’t see an immediate change.

Remember good things take time. So keep on practicing!

Time for your action:

Want me to help you improve your English learning? Fill up this form ! Open the form

Stephy George
Stephy George

Hi I am Stephy ! I became a bookworm in my late twenties. So I created this little corner of books online to share my love of reading with YOU! I want to help you find the best books to read so you won’t ever have to worry about your next read!


  1. Thank you for the comprehensive and useful article.
    I noticed a small inaccuracy regarding the book “The Secret garden” – the author is Frances Burnett.

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