6 Unexpected Side-Effects of Reading Books for Better English


Read because you love to.  Read because you can't see yourself without a book in your hand.  Read because the world would be a better place if more people read more books.  Read to escape.  Read to experience.  Read to grow. 

Read in English.  Because you already live part of your life in English, don't you?

Follow your passion for books and your English will rise to the occasion.

Want to improve your English? Follow your passion.

Why? Two reasons:

  • Your time is too precious to be wasted on things you don't enjoy.
  • Making your English study meaningful, enjoyable and personally relevant is fundamental to living in the language. 

If you love to read then you are honoring your time by improving your English and doing something you love. 

Are you serious about living in a language, really making it yours and not just 'studying' it? 

Then reading books is a fantastic way to 'drink deeply,' as Mark Thomas puts it in his article,  "How I, Personally, Learn Languages"

I'm a lover of language learning--so I'm always inspired by someone who speaks four languages!

And I loved the way he shared in a very personal way what language teachers and learners know to be true:

Drink deeply from the cultures that a language is connected with. Learn to understand people and share in their history. Without this, you will never begin to see what the words mean.

Watch their films, read their books, eat their food, look at life with their eyes.

When you read a great book, you travel to a new place, a new culture.  You see the world through someone else's eyes.  You walk in their shoes. And you come back different. 

Think of constantly improving your English as one happy side effect of your passion for books and your reading habit in English.

Looking for a little reading and writing inspiration? Try out the short story series...

Looking for a little reading and writing inspiration? Try out the short story series...

What are the side-effects of your actions?

In the interest of honoring my time, I'm always thinking about the side effects of what I do. 

Because everything we do has unintended consequences--we might as well be mindful of what they are!

Can I tell you a personal story? 

Back when I was still teaching high school French in San Diego, I worked about 65-70 hours a week.  I loved my job--but my job was also all-consuming. 

Time.  When you don't have it, you realize how precious it is.

And then, I had even less.  I injured my back.  There was no choice but to go to extensive physical therapy. 

It was like a punishment. 

My spare time was devoted to mindless, meaningless, repetitious movement done in isolation. 

But if I stopped my exercises, my back would punish me.  So I had no choice. 

Until I finally tried yoga. . .

Yoga, like physical therapy, helped me manage my back problems.  But I also experienced some interesting side-effects--some unintended consequences!

  • Fluidity and fun! The style of yoga I found was constant motion, something like a dance--instead of boring repetition, yoga was always unexpected, it kept me guessing, improvising.
  • Community: I learned from a teacher, met friends in class.
  • Meaning: there is an entire spirituality behind yoga that I find interesting (and relevant).
  • Beauty: sometimes the teachers would read a poem ancient or new, sometimes we did yoga to music--again new or traditional. 
  • Peace: I started capturing moments of peace in my daily life.  Which for me, was something I hadn't done since I started my teaching career and my 65 hour work week.

I started yoga with one goal in mind: to be able to live and move again after my injury.  But so much more came from it. 

So what the heck does this personal story have to do with you, your books and your English?


Better English through Books AND 6 other Unexpected Perks!

Your goal may be learning English.  But what are the side-effects of your study? 

If you are just working on grammar or drilling your pronunciation then you are missing too much. 

You are missing out on the meaning, the beauty, the community that could be a part of your life when you improve your English through your reading habit.  

Do we really have time to devote to activities that don't insire us and motivate us?  

What are the happy side-effects of reading?

  • A different way of viewing people, of understanding people--a new perspective you gain from living someone else's life for the short time of a book.  You improve your empathy as the researchers like to say (see this article from Scientific American).
  • Calm in the storm.  As The Telegraph points out, reading is a highly effective means of reducing stress.
  • A smarter way of seeing the word.  Yes, as this article from The Guardian points out, reading can increase your intelligence.
  • A way of facing life's challenges. Reading is not just a form of escape from what troubles us, but a way through! Here is a fascinating read from the BBC Culture blog about bibliotherapy.
  • Beauty and connection: To me, reading a book is like taking part in a work of art.  You witness something beautiful that someone else has created and you participate.  You help write the story.  You take part in a long human tradition of telling and retelling tales. 
  • Community: If you choose you can always join a group of fellow readers and share the experience. 

What else?

Why else do you read?  What are some of the 'side effects' you notice?  Maybe you want to write about it in your journal, or share in our book discussion on Facebook. 

Either way, happy reading!