The JOY of Reading (Post No.11)

As I’ve written before, there are different types of reading: we read differently depending on WHY we’re doing it. Today, however, I want us to focus on reading for sheer PLEASURE!

For some of you, that may be a “given” – that is, you already know what a joy reading can be.

For others of you, you may be thinking, “Yeah, right. That’s not going to happen.”

I’d ask you to try your best to get to a stage where reading is not an effort for you. It can be a great pleasure as you lose yourself in fiction, fantasy or real-life stories – especially at this time when we are all having to stay indoors and away from other people a lot more than we are used to doing.

So – two aspects to today’s post: ONE – WHAT you might read; TWO – HOW you might come to read easily.

ONE – WHAT might I read now? If you know what sort of book you like, this is a good time to get hold of more of the same type and to enjoy them.

If you want to experiment with books that are different from the ones you’ve already read, this is a good time to do that as well! We almost all have plenty of time on our hands at the moment.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford to buy books online, there are many places where you can do this – Amazon, of course; also Waterstones and Blackwells bookshops, and possibly an independent bookseller closer to your home. Look at the “blurb” – what’s written about the book – before you add it to your list, and also read the reviews; if you’re spending money, you want to be fairly sure that you’re spending it on something you’re going to like. Don’t feel pressured into buying something that’s won prizes or had a lot of publicity; buy what appeals to you, and perhaps books that are recommended by people you know, who like the same sort of thing that you do. Feel free to type in lots of different categories in the Search bar; this is also a good time for online browsing, and you might come across interesting-sounding books that would otherwise have escaped your notice.

If you can’t or would rather not buy books online, there are many which can be downloaded for free. Just searching for “free books online” I came across a number of sites which you might want to browse. for example lists 15 sources of free online books, with the 15 categories differing widely. I thought that also looked promising, again because you can browse by category and also because it didn’t seem overwhelmingly American in tone.

I’m not recommending anything – site or book – in particular at this point, because I know from experience how awkward and boring it can be if you’re recommended something and end up not liking it. Feel free to make your own choices!

What I would say, though, is that unless you really LIKE reading on a screen, you’ll probably get more enjoyment from a hard-copy – i.e. paper – book, and find it easier to follow and to read swiftly. So for that reason, another GREAT source of new reading material is ANYTHING THAT YOU AND YOUR FAMILY ALREADY HAVE IN THE HOUSE. This may not be the time to be choosy: read as much as you can, and see what you like and don’t like.

TWO – HOW can I get to the stage where I read almost without realising I’m doing it?

If you’ve been doing what I recommended in Post No. 5 – Read, read, read! – you’ll be well on the way to absorbing written words rather than having to make an effort to read them. Well done: keep up the good work!

If you haven’t started that, give it a try – and don’t be put off by difficulties. Anything worth doing takes effort and practice. Stick at it. Ask for help with words you don’t recognise. Use a dictionary if you need help which you can’t – or don’t want to – get from another person. This site tells you how to pronounce words, too: Just be sure to choose the English (BrE) version of the word rather than the American (NAmE) one (unless you want to sound American, of course – which is fine!).

Choose a story you think you’d like to read. A short piece is better to start with – maybe something from a magazine.

Do you find it easier to read aloud to yourself rather than “in your head”? That’s fine to start off with. Read to yourself until you’re happy with the speed that you’re achieving. If there are too many puzzling words, though, try to find something easier to read. At this stage you want to grow in confidence and fluency, not to struggle unnecessarily.

Once you’ve got up to a speed you’re happy with, try your next (part of the) story just moving your lips to shape the words but not making any sound. Again, keep going until you’re happy with the speed and understanding of your reading. Be aware that this may take days or weeks: don’t over-do it each day, just make sure that you practise each day and try to improve each time.

Finally (for now), practise reading without moving your lips. Make your eyes move from word to word at a steady pace, and pause a little at commas, and a little longer at full stops. These are the places from which to go back, if you find you haven’t understood something.

Now you’re well on your way to reading for pleasure. Well done! Keep practising!

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