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The Significance of Reading in English Teaching
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By Middle School English Teacher Ms. Kong Xianyu


Reading, as one of the four basic skills of any language, is absolutely important in our daily life, especially in the academic aspect. However, how important reading is in English teaching is still obscure among some educators.


As a high school EFL teacher, I find that the students who are good at reading are mostly at a high level of productive skills (speaking and writing), especially writing. Actually, it is not difficult to explain this phenomenon. Grabe (2009) said that reading is an interactive process because it is an interaction between the reader and the writer. The text provides the information that the writer wants the reader to understand. If students don’t have good reading ability, they cannot communicate with the author, the history, celebrities, and the world, and they learn limitedly, let alone write it down. They learn new things through reading, and they improve their overall learning through reading.


Meanwhile, Nunan and Anderson (2008) defined that reading is making meaning from print and it is a process for readers to combine information from a text and their own background knowledge. They stated that it is the reader’s background knowledge that integrates with the text to create the meaning. As a result, although reading is one of the two receptive skills (reading and listening), it can be regarded as the beginning and even the foundation of productive skills as well, because reading prepares more new background knowledge for the readers for their future learning, not only for reading, but also for writing, listening, and speaking.


When assessing students’ English writing assignment, we often find some students misunderstand the writing requirement and miss the point. More importantly, this problem not only exists in L2 but also L1 learning, not only language learning, but also Math, science, and other subjects. All in all, reading decides students’ understanding ability, which leads to a good or bad output.


Fortunately, as English language teachers, we have the opportunity to help students develop their reading skills. As for how to inspire students to do some reading, many teachers may complain that it is difficult. I suppose the so-called reading here probably means intensive reading (a means of increasing learners’ knowledge of language features and the control of reading strategies (Nation, 2009)). As intensive reading mainly focuses on comprehension, sound-spelling, vocabulary, grammar and cohesion, and information content genre, which makes it difficult for students to follow and get interested.


However, teachers can encourage students to choose for themselves what they want to read and to do it for pleasure to carry on the extensive reading (Harmer, 2007), which mainly focuses on the development of students’ word recognition, fluency development, and the meaning-focused input (Nation, 2009). According to Grabe (2009), practice with extended reading can lead to significant gains in reading comprehension in both L1 and L2 setting. And there is also good evidence that long-term extensive reading training plays an important role of increasing vocabulary growth, (Nation, 2001).


As Nunan and Anderson (2008) emphasized that reading strengthens other areas of learning, including writing, listening, and speaking, we should try the best to help our students increase the exposure to print as much as possible and establish a culture of reading. The reading material can be of a great range, including domestic and international news, sports, history, biography, entertainment, and so on, as long as students are motivated. The more they read, the more background knowledge they will get, and the more fluent readers they will become, and in this way their confidence in English study will be built up.



Grabe, W. (2009). Reading in a second language moving from theory to practice. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Harmer, J. (2007). The practice of English language teaching. Essex: Pearson Education Limited.

Nation, I.S.P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Nation, I.S.P. (2009). Teaching ESL/EFL reading and writing. New York: Routledge.

Nunan, D. & Anderson, N. J., (2008). Practical English language teaching: reading. Beijing: McGraw-Hill Education & Tsinghua University Press Ltd. 

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