This is EXACTLY how I felt, picking up my FIRST book! My dad would ritually read to us just before bed: heroic stories, fairytales and some hilariously bad improvisations – I LOVED IT! Couldn’t get enough of it! There’s something completely magical about a book that watching a movie can’t fulfil in my mind – IMAGINATION – Poor dad couldn’t keep up with my brother and I, and our demanding requests. So mum, who would religiously play “educational games” with us throughout the day – Little did I know we were simultaneously “learning” and “playing” – suggested we try reading more of those stories ourselves. Being the elder sibling, I thought it my due diligence to improve my reading skills.
LESSON 1 – The kryptonite of reading is a word OUTSIDE your vocabulary!
(gif: That moment you encounter a ‘foreign word’)
I learned this lesson fairly quickly. I was 7 years old and reading was TOUGH! Forget the stereotypical image of a child reading her favourite little picture book outside on the front porch, or snuggled up in a comfy chair. I wanted Harry Potter! And every J.K Rowling fan knows you’d be lucky to find a decent picture every 60 pages or so – besides it’s the story we’re all after not the illustrations – Needless to say, I was a vocabulary novice. So imagine, not one.. but TWO big chunky books in hand, an Oxford Dictionary to the left and Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to the right. Endless weeks of interrupted reading * PAINFUL *, for those of you who don’t pursue reading as a hobby, I’m sure you drive! Imagine hopping in your car – it doesn’t matter “where” you’re going – but let me ask you, HOW does it feel being stopped at EVERY red light or intersection? FRUSTRATING right? Well “interrupted reading” is its’ equivalent – you’re literally reading a 30 second story on and off, as if you were pausing a movie EVERY 30 seconds.
One may ask… ‘Why even read at all?’… I’ll tell you what I tell every person who tells me they “don’t like” to read.. YOU CLEARLY HAVEN’T FOUND THE RIGHT BOOK YET! From one book enthusiast to another… nothing can replace the feeling of finishing your FIRST book on your OWN, it’s a milestone achievement – So choose something that fascinates you or an area you’re interested in! When you’re passionate about something you’ll (a) want to pursue it again and (b) do it better than before!
LESSON 2 – THE UGLY TRUTH: It never ends, but it definitely gets EASIER! (aka. LESS red lights)
As your reading progresses, so too will your vocabulary! Before you know it, words like “rendition”, “ennui” and “percolate” will come as easy as 1.. 2.. and 3. I do notice that some writer’s adopt a pattern of vocabulary for their works of literature. For example, while first reading Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in primary school I came across the word “vexing”. Now, I wasn’t a gifted and talented student and at 9 years old the closest words I knew to that was: “puzzling” or “annoying”. Picture my relief encountering the SAME word MULTIPLE times while reading Austen’s Emma as well as Sense and Sensibility – *moral of the story* LESS red lights! My 30 seconds of interrupted reading time gradually became a good 60 seconds. Through primary and high school it progressed to 10 minutes and now a solid 30 minutes depending on the writer and complexity of the text.
LESSON 3 – Keep a VOCABULARY List!
With all the fancy apps for iPhones, iPads and Android there are so many creative and practical ways to do so. I’m currently utilising dictionary.com: it’s FREE and compatible with iPad, iPhone and Android devices – It’s FANTASTIC! I love being able to save words as I look them up and it functions offline, so won’t end up chewing through your monthly internet data. It’s the best way to catalogue your learning and document the new words you encounter as you’re reading. Furthermore, a vocabulary list allows you to reflect on your journey reading – you’d be surprised how MANY words you pick up after 6 months!
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