08What to do When Reading

by Danny K. Howard, EAP Associate Director

For students who plan to enroll at NIC, reading is perhaps the most important skill. On average, students only write 2-5 papers per semester, but they have to read a lot everyday. In fact, reading your textbook will be more than 80% of your homework when you go abroad.

On a typical day a professor might ask the class, “Read pages 40-65 of your textbook for homework.” This might sound simple to do for one class, but imagine doing it for 4 or 5 of them!! Therefore, at NIC we try to teach students that reading is important. We ask students to read a lot BEFORE they enter NIC, but we want you to break some of your bad habits of reading while you are still in high school. Below are some things that you should and should not do when you read in English.

First...what you should not do...


  • Stop and look up words every time find new ones
    Some students stop reading every time they discover a new word. However, this makes their reading time much, much, much l-o-n-g-e-r!!!
  • Translate the document in Japanese and then read it
    This is common for students before they come to NIC. This will also cause your reading time to be three or four times longer if you do this!
  • Try to read too much in one time period (especially when you are getting sleepy)
    You will lose the important details of the reading by doing this bad habit.
  • Read English with your TV/music on
    Of course, whenever something funny is said on TV, you will focus on that more than on what you are reading.
  • Read material that is too easy or difficult for youFind readings that have a few new words and many familiar words on each page, but if more than 15-20% of the words are new ones, it may be too hard for you.

However, DO...

  • To read faster, pick up key words in your reading to get a better understanding.
    Look at the sentence below to get this idea.

    In 1981, a law was passed by the city government of Toledo, Ohio, which declared that all dog owners make strict use of leashes when walking their dogs in and about the immediate downtown areas of the city.

    If you just focus on the key words in dark print, it would read:
    1991 Toledo law, dog owners use leashes walking dogs downtown.

    It’s OK if you don’t understand the words: declared, strict, in & about, or immediate.
    There are enough familiar words there for you to understand the sentence.

  • Highlight new vocabulary words and try to guess meanings & look them up later
    To read faster, try to focus more on what you are reading. By stopping to look up words, you break your concentration. You must focus when you read.
  • Read in shorter time periods to keep your mind fresh Unless you really love to read a lot, try not to read too much in a short time period. It might make you irritated. This mean, you might get upset. This could affect your love for English and cause you to not like reading. So take it easy and break up the times!
  • Read in a nice peaceful environment
    Again, reading requires concentration. TV, radio and friends break that concentration. Try to read in a favorite place like a café, in a park or in your favorite room. Reading in these places will make you really look forward to doing it!
  • Make notes of your reading on the sides of the page
    If you find interesting information in your reading, write it in your book on the sides. Teachers expect you to do this when you take academic classes, as well.
  • Read a variety of sources
    Sometimes the same books types or magazines have a lot of the same words. For example, if the only thing you read is a music magazine, you are only getting music vocabulary. Try to read from a variety of sources such as, a popular magazine, a good book, a news sources, and another special interest book/magazine. This will add variety and make reading more fun.

Remember, there is a strong connection between good readers and successful students at NIC and abroad.
So...why don’t you go by the bookstore and pick up some books today!