As we’ve discussed in other articles, one of the best ways to learn a new language – and the way you learned your first language – is to speak it with others. Add to that the fact that the best way to improve your reading skills is to read, and you have a recipe for a book club!

* First, find one or more students who want to join you. It’s best to have a mix of first languages so you’re not tempted to speak your own language.

* Choose your book. Choose one that everyone wants to read. Don’t choose one that’s too difficult – you want to spend your time READING and ENJOYING the book, not looking in your dictionary. There is a good selection of ESL readers for adults. You may also want to choose a children’s version of an adult classic.

A book on tape or CD is an excellent choice because you can read along with it at your meetings.

* Decide when you want to meet. Once or twice a week is probably best.

* Decide how much you’re going to read before each meeting. Will you read a whole chapter, or just a few pages?

* What if someone doesn’t do their “homework”? Charge a fine, say 10 cents per missed page. Use the money to buy snacks for your end-of-book party.

* Take turns planning your club meetings. Here is a suggested plan:

USE a tape or CD if you have one.

  • Begin by listening to a short passage.
  • Then listen again, reading along with the tape. Mark the stresses and pauses.
  • Read out loud with the tape, paying attention to the stresses and pauses. You may wish to do this more than once.
  • Try to guess the meaning of new words from the context. Then look them up in a dictionary.
  • Read the passage again with the tape, this time focusing on the meaning.
  • Listen again without looking. That’s it!

What are you practicing with this method?

  • Listening–for natural rhythm and pronunciation
  • Listening–for meaning
  • Pronunciation–you are practicing this skill with a native speaker. And s/he never gets tired of repeating the passage for you!
  • Reading speed–you are reading at the same speed as a native speaker
  • Reading comprehension–by listening and reading at a normal rate of speed and with pronunciation similar to a native speaker’s, you increase your understanding.

TALK about the part that you read. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • Do you think ________________ did the right thing?
  • What do you think is going to happen next?
  • What would you like to see happen next?

FOLLOW UP with an activity. Here are some examples:

  • Study the new words. Write the sentences that contain them in your notebook, along with the dictionary meanings. Then write your own sentences.
  • Act out the story. This can be a lot of fun for people who like drama!
  • Draw pictures with stick figures to show the action. Put the pictures in order and summarize the story orally.
  • Write a letter to one of the characters.
  • Each club member say which character they would like to meet and why.

TALK about how the club has helped you learn English at your end-of-book party. Then choose your next book!

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