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How to improve reading skills

As a language teacher, I deeply understand the vital role of reading in both our personal and professional lives. Reading is not just a skill; it’s a gateway to accessing information, expanding our knowledge, and communicating effectively. However, I recognize that not everyone is a natural reader. Many individuals struggle with reading comprehension and fluency, and there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this challenge, as Grabe (2008) aptly noted.

My experience aligns with the view that reading skill development is a lifelong process, extending well beyond the school years. Isik (2023) believes this is so, emphasizing that learning to read doesn’t stop after formal education ends. However, this doesn’t mean that we, as teachers, should adopt a laissez-faire approach. On the contrary, our role is crucial in guiding students through this journey. The question then arises: if not at school, when?

In my teaching, I often reflect on Cummings’ (1981) concept of common underlying proficiency (CUP). He argued that students possess transferable reading skills from their native language, a notion that, despite some disputes, I believe holds true, particularly in academic settings. I’ve observed that students develop reading skills in their first language (L1) through subjects like language and literature, history, social studies, and philosophy, all of which are usually taught in L1 in bilingual schools.

That said, there are strategies and techniques to help students become better readers. Grabe (2008) suggests that using multiple instructional options together can be effective. By implementing these strategies, individuals can improve their reading speed, enhance their comprehension, and develop a lifelong love of reading.

Research underscores the importance of an effective curriculum, variety, and motivation in enhancing reading skills. Grabe (2008) recommends structured lessons involving pre-reading, during-reading, and post-reading activities. Each major reading should be approached differently to maintain variety and keep students motivated and engaged.

Motivation is another ingredient in reading development. Contrary to the belief of some educators, Grabe (2008) argues that motivating students is indeed part of a teacher’s responsibility. He suggests various strategies to foster motivation, such as discussing personal reading interests, encouraging students to share theirs, promoting group cohesiveness, increasing students’ expectancy of success, using engaging lead-in activities, matching student skills with challenges, making the curriculum relevant, and involving students actively in reading activities.

Regarding the use of textbooks, they are a common tool in L2 learning worldwide. Grabe (2008) points out that good textbook series introduce reading strategies, vocabulary learning and practice, awareness of discourse and morphology, and extension tasks that integrate language skills.

In summary, as a teacher, I believe in the transformative power of reading. It’s not just about learning to read; it’s about reading to learn and enjoying the journey. Through effective strategies, motivation, and a variety of engaging activities, we can guide our students towards becoming proficient, lifelong readers.


Cummings, J. (1981). Schooling and language minority: A theoretical framework (California State Department of Education, Ed.). Evaluation, Dissemination and Assessment Center, California State University.

Grabe, W. (2008). The reading curriculum and instruction. Cambridge University Press EBooks, 329–351.

Isik, A. D. (2023). Reading environment and fluent reading skills. Pedagogical Research, 8(1), em0148.

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