What is independent reading? And how can it help increase vocabulary? Independent reading is the reading we do of our own volition. It could be a romance novel, sports magazine, or local newspaper. It is anything we pick up and read because we want to read it – not because we are required to read it for a class or work. The reason independent reading promotes vocabulary growth is because we are exposed to new words and can discern their meaning through the context of what we are reading. The greater the variety of our independent reading, the more vocabulary one is likely to assimilate.
The following techniques will maximize the value of independent reading and its link to vocabulary development.
1. Read different genres of books. Variety is the spice of life and it is also the key to increasing vocabulary. Mystery, science fiction, biography, sports, humor, inspirational, how-to books, history – all have their own vocabulary. Each topic area has particular words to describe both the objects that make up that world and the processes or actions that occur.
2. Read different authors. Each person has a unique set of vocabulary and way of using language to convey ideas. Reading books and articles written by different people will broaden your English language skills and introduce you to new words which will enrich your vocabulary.
3. Read in different types of media. Reading magazines, newspapers, books and articles on the internet can expand your command of English. That is because writers in these separate media use language in different ways, for example, books include more descriptive material than other forms of writing and, therefore, are good sources of adjectives and adverbs.
4. Join a book club to prompt you to read books you might not have selected yourself. Book clubs choose reading material in a variety of ways. Some use lists provided by librarians, others take member suggestions, and still others are run by publishing companies that provide fresh choices each month. Any of these situations are a benefit because the books selected are likely to be ones you would not have picked up on your own.
5. Work through a reading list. You can find reading lists at your local library or by searching the Internet using “reading lists” as the search term. The key to techniques 4 and 5 is stretching your comfort zone by finding new material in subject areas that are not as familiar to you as your usual reading choices.
6. Keep a notebook and jot down words you don’t know. Look them up and write down the definition. This is a proven technique that works. Discerning the meaning of a word through the context in which it is used only gives you a shallow level of understanding. By looking up the definition you are supplied with in-depth information about the word. You are also actively thinking and writing about the word which will aid in keeping it in your memory.
Independent reading is one of the best ways to add new words to your vocabulary. Use the techniques contained in this article to maximize your acquisition of new words and broaden your understanding of the world in which we live.