Reading is a great way to expand your English, and many students ask for recommendations. Here is
some advice for getting started, and a few suggestions to help you choose something that will be
1. Read something you are familiar with.
Re-read a book you have read in your native language,
or a book about a topic you’re well-versed in. This will allow you to focus on the language
rather than content. The first full novel I read in Spanish was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s
Stone and choosing a story I knew so well helped me quickly decode new vocabulary and
meant I didn’t have to look up every phrase or concept I didn’t understand.
2. Classics are not always the best choice.
Famous works like Sherlock Holmes or Alice in
Wonderland may seem like obvious picks, however classics often use complex or archaic
language. While these are wonderful works, even native speakers sometimes have a hard
time understanding them, as any high school student will tell you. Modern works will likely
use sentence structures and vocabulary you are more familiar with.
3. Try a children’s or young adult novel.
Young adult novels are wildly popular with both
teenagers and adults in English speaking countries, and for good reason. Many of them have
superb stories while also being shorter and simpler than adult novels. They come in the full
range of genres from fantasy to romance to historical fiction, as well as a full range of reading
A few of my favourite YA books to get you started:
Holes by Louis Sachar
This funny and inventive story tells the story of Stanley Yelnats, an unusually
unlucky boy who is sent to a juvenile prison camp for a crime he didn’t commit. While forced to dig
one hole each day in the middle of the desert, he uncovers secrets about his family’s strange past.
The story is sure to keep you engaged.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
This graphic novel brilliantly explores identity through
three interwoven stories. Graphic novels have limited text and lots of pictures, making them a great
choice for beginning readers.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
This story is narrated by Ivan, a captive gorilla living
as an attraction at a shopping mall. The language is simple but the ideas are universal, and the style
makes it a great choice if you only want to read a short amount at a time.
The Giver by Lois Lowry
This thought provoking book has been beloved by children and adults since
its publication in the early 90s. a great choice if you enjoy dystopian or science fiction novels.
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
If you’re looking for romance, Jenny Han’s books are page turners that are sure to leave you feeling good. In this, the first of a series, we are introduced to 16 year old Laura Jean, a high school student whose unsent love letters mysteriously arrive at the houses of all the boys she has had crushes on in her short life.
Well-versed (adjective) – highly experienced or knowledgeable in a subject
Archaic (adjective) – old-fashioned
Wildly (adverb) – to an extreme degree
Superb (adjective) – very good, excellent
Interwoven (adjective) – to be closely connected or intwined