Four of the best stories to learn English (depending on your level)
If you’re a beginner, then you should read…
- Fantastic Mr. Fox, Roald Dahl.
It’s the story of a fox hunted by three farmers. Mr Fox’s family need food so they have to find a way to survive and avoid the farmers.
- The Cat in the Hat, Dr Seuss.
A strange and funny character (who is a cat) visits two kids while their mother is away. A funny story!
- Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Jeff Kinney.
In this book, we follow Greg Heffley and his life in middle-school. He has two very annoying older brothers and the books (there are several available) are overall great and entertaining.
- The Happy Prince, Oscar Wilde.
A story about The Happy Prince and a swallow bird. A really nice and poetic little story.
If you’re intermediate, then you should read…
- Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling
A well-known best seller about a wizard that goes to a wizard’s school. A must read. The movies are also great.
In this story, we follow a mother and her two kids in a post-apocalyptic world filled with unknown monsters. Thrilling and easy to read, you will finish it in no time.
- The Wonderful Magician of Oz, Lyman F. Baum
In this book, we follow Dorothy, a young orphan, and her dog Toto. Their adventures in the imaginary land of Oz are marvellous and this book is a great classic.
- A Series of Unfortunate Events, Daniel Handler
The chronicles of three extremely unlucky orphans that try to escape their nemesis: Count Olaf. Again a great series of books to read.
If you are advanced, then you should read…
- Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien.
A classic trilogy of fantasy English literature. Tolkien is also well known for his style and perfect mastery of the English language.
- Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger
The novel depicts two days in the life of a 16 year old that tries to understand the weirdness of the adult world. Very well written and another classic.
- On the road by Jack Kerouac
A must read. The story follows the main character through a road trip in the USA. Jazz, poetry, in a postwar world… It sure is a must read!
Again a very famous author and a classic of English literature. If you like dystopian novels (stories about a dangerous/frightening country or society) then this is a book you will like for sure. “Big Brother is watching you!”
Why should you improve your English with books?
Reading a book has a lot of benefits whether it’s in your native language or not: it helps you train your concentration, your focus as well as your memory. To put it simply, you should read books anyway. But why can it help you improve your English? Well first, it’s more entertaining than a lesson or exercise. It allows you to escape for a little while, and it will make you feel a lot of different emotions: joy, sadness, thrill, anger, excitement… They’re also very often available in audiobooks, which is a great format if you prefer to listen to something or even if you want to practice your hearing skills. That way, you can read or listen to your book anywhere you want. Reading a book is also a great way to learn about English culture. The sentences and vocabulary words used are “every day” English, real English. This means it is not formatted to fit a lesson or an exercise. It feels more natural to read and it will get you used to some structures, vocabulary words etc. A great way to learn how to speak a neat, natural English.
Finally, reading books is a great source for vocabulary words. They contain descriptions full of vocab and synonyms, idioms, slang words… everything you need to enrich your vocabulary. You also see these new words “in action”, in their context: it will help you learn their meaning and how to properly use them in a sentence. Reading a book is really rewarding and we can not recommend it enough. You finished a book (a great thing to do anyway.) AND it’s in another language. So cool!
Questions you should ask yourself before picking a book
If you’re not used to reading books, then there are a few questions you should ask yourself before picking a book. It will make your reading much easier.
#1: What’s the story about?
The very first thing to check in a book is the story. Finding a good story will help you read often and regularly. The key to any learning: be consistent. so make sure you like the story first. Another good thing to take into account are the characters. Who are the characters? Do you want to learn more about them? Sometimes, the summary of a book does not tell a lot, but you can make your decision based on the character(s).
#2: What’s the length of the book/story?
Pay attention to the length of the story (if you’re reading a short story collection for example) or the length of the book. It can sometimes be discouraging to engage in a 800 page book, especially for a beginner. So if you’re not used to reading books, start slow and pick short stories/books. The goal is not to discourage you. Of course if you really like reading, you can pick larger books.
#3: Which genre is the book?
The style and genre of the book you’re reading is really important too and can help you make a decision. Do you want to read about your favourite historic period? Do you want to read about witches and dragons? Do you want to read a spooky story? Here’s a quick guide about the main genres that exists:
- Sci-Fi (Science Fiction): stories that are about the future, space and technology.
- Fantasy: stories about magical characters that are not real (like mythical creatures, imaginary lands etc.)
- Romantic: stories about love and relationships.
- Horror: scary stories that will give you a good fright!
- Murder, mystery: stories about a murder or a particular event that will be solved at the end.
- Thriller: a story filled with action and suspense.
- Non fiction: stories about factual information. They’re not imaginary: biographies, historical books etc.
Our top 6 tips to learn English through stories and books
Tip#1: Like we said earlier, choose a story that you will want to read
It will help you stay focused. Choose something interesting.
Tip#2: Be sure that the level of the book is not too difficult or too easy to read
You should understand most of it on your own without any help if you just want to relax or practice. But you should choose a story that is a bit more difficult if you want to train harder and improve. Your level of understanding is very important: you should get the general meaning but have to look for new vocabulary words.
Tip#3: Keep track of what you’re learning
Take a notebook and write any new vocabulary words you may encounter. Think about what you’re reading: every chapter or at the end of the book, note what new words you learned. How was the book? Did you enjoy it? Was it easy, difficult to read? This is a great way to reflect on your learning journey.
Tip#4: You don’t really like to read?
Find an audiobook or choose a podcast. It will also help you practice your hearing skills. Alternatively, you can also watch movie adaptations of many books or TV shows and serials, or even listen to music !
Tip#5: Get yourself bilingual books or applications
There are many applications that can help you. They’re great to learn vocabulary without having to pause your reading to go to a dictionary. When you’re not sure about the meaning of something, just take a quick look at your native version and continue reading without losing the meaning. It’s also a great way to contrast how your language works compared to the English language. Another great way of learning. Alternatively, there are various websites that will help you in the same way.
Tip#6: Find a book club or read with friends
The more the merrier, right? It’s always fun to read with friends. Moreover, finding a book club will also help you think deeper about the story you read. Exchange your thoughts with other readers, it’s another good method for learning how to reflect on something.
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Our General English program is especially made for you to have a place to learn English and be confident about it. Our goal is that you can improve quickly, while you have fun doing it. What are you waiting for? Let’s learn English together!