Reading is one of the most important elements of language learning. While speaking may be a priority for many, before long, reading ability becomes a necessity, especially if you live in a country where that language is dominant.
When I moved to Japan in 2000, not being able to read was a source of great frustration for me. I made learning to read a priority. This meant mastering three writing systems, two of which are easy, one of which takes quite a long time. I used textbooks to teach myself how to read. However, there came a time when I wanted, and needed, to practice what I had learnt. At that time there was a monthly publication called the Nihongo Journal. This was aimed at learners of Japanese, and the language was manageable. I often came across the words and characters I had learnt in my studies. Reading helped to reinforce what I had learnt. It helped that the content was interesting.
I also started to read newspapers. Well, I tried to read newspapers. I practiced extensive reading – reading without a dictionary, and found that, at the level I was then, the exercise turned into one of “find the characters” rather than “read the article”. It wasn’t fun or informative, and I soon got bored. Now I read newspapers in Japanese, and I enjoy doing so, but before I reached upper-intermediate level, it was a chore.
A learner needs comprehensible reading material. Graded readers meet that need. The learner chooses a book which he or she can read comfortably without a dictionary, and has fun while naturally absorbing the language. When I was learning Japanese, there were no graded readers available, so I relied on the Nihongo Journal. Once I had reached the upper-intermediate level, I found that I was able to read lifestyle magazines, and then as I progressed, newspapers.
If you are learning English, you are lucky. There are thousands of graded readers available, at different levels. If you are learning a lesser-learnt language, then you will probably find there are none. So, what do you do? Start with the reading passages in your textbook, and then as you progress, try reading material on topics which interest you or which you are familiar with. I started with lifestyle magazines because I knew more of the vocabulary. Economic and political articles were beyond my abilities because I just didn’t have the vocabulary in those fields.
One of my goals for I Talk You Talk Press is to make graded readers for learners of lesser-learnt languages. Every learner should have access to comprehensible material, whichever language they are learning. It speeds up the learning process, and it’s fun.
For more information on graded readers, see I Talk You Talk Press https://italkyoutalk.com/