Reading has been acknowledged as an extremely important habit for everyone since the time immemorial. Adults need to read to keep being up to date that facilitates them to make the right decisions. For older people, reading is advantageous because it slows down the progress of (or possibly even prevents) Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. For children, reading nurtures curiosity which further stimulates them to read more and to study. For students, regardless of their study field, reading is crucial because it facilitates knowledge enlargement, critical and analytical thinking skills advancement, creativity development, and cheap but healthy entertainment. For English as a foreign language (EFL) learners, however, reading is exclusively more than just a learning tool. It empowers them in many ways. This essay discusses four ways that make reading is exclusively more than just a learning tool for EFL learners. It starts with how reading provides exposure, reinforces and recombines previously learned elements, increases vocabulary, and develops writing skills.
First, reading in English provides exposure to the language. Unlike students who learn English as a mother tongue and a second language, EFL learners study the target language in an environment where it is not used in daily life. This causes them to lack English inputs and the opportunity to practice it in their daily interaction. Such an exposure gap could be best reduced by the provision of large quantities of English texts. Studies have revealed that authentic comprehensible English texts provide learners with valuable inputs. If students select texts interesting to them the language exposure will occur in a relaxed, tension-free learning atmosphere. This will make language acquisition conducive. In most cases, this could be achieved by reading novels or short stories written by English native speakers. Such literary works are generally entertaining and so close to real-life that they provide the readers linguistic competence and cultural awareness which interestingly facilitate proficiency.
Secondly, reading can reinforce and recombine the previously learned language. Stories telling past events employ past tenses in natural contexts. Stories that tell present events use present tenses in context. Reading such texts enables students to see numerous examples of sentences of various tenses they might have studied in the classroom. Articles and essays are composed of various types of paragraphs. Reading such texts offers students the potential for reinforcing and recombining paragraph elements and skills they had learned in the classroom. Getting such reinforcement again and again through reading will help EFL students increase their mastery of the target language.
Reading also effectively increases vocabulary. Research has shown that getting students to spend time on silent reading of interesting books is much more effective to increase their vocabulary than asking them to learn words directly, like memorizing words in lists. That’s true that some words must be learned directly, but most vocabulary is learned indirectly. The more one reads, the more new word he/she comes across. Since most words are met repetitively in various contexts, the reader unconsciously learns their meanings and includes the words into his/her vocabulary repertoire. These new words become more stick in his/her mind when she/he meets them in the next readings. These words help him/her in listening, and they could be used in speaking and writing.
Finally, reading improves writing skills. Most professional writers agree that writing is a skill that requires a lot of practice, ideas to share, and models to master. The best way to get good models and to enrich ideas for writing is through reading. Oscar Wilde, a famous Irish poet, and playwright said, “You are what you read”. This is precisely true in the reading and writing connection. A person who loves reading poems tends to write poems. People who like reading short stories are inclined to write short stories. Those who work in academia will be apt to write in academic language. Reading also enlightens. It enlarges knowledge and broadens imagination. Reading, therefore, will feed directly into what – and how – you write. Stephen King, the famous American novelist and short-story writer accentuated, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” Thus, if you want to write well, read a lot!
To conclude, reading is very essential for EFL learners because it empowers them to succeed in their learning as it provides meaningful inputs, opportunities to consolidate previously learned language components and skills, and develops vocabulary and writing skills Realizing the immense power they can get from it, reading is certainly a great opportunity EFL learners must grab. Not seizing an opportunity that is right in one’s nose can be a life-long inconsolable regret. Dear EFL learners, how many pages have you read today?***
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