The 5 Finger Rule: How to choose a book that’s just right to improve your English

Do you know how to choose a book to improve your English?

I am always recommending reading books in English to my students as a way of improving their English language abilities. They are probably tired of hearing me say this but it’s true.

Reading is a great way of expanding your vocabulary and if you read aloud, you have the added benefit of improving your speaking skills as well.

A wider vocabulary can only be beneficial as vocabulary is the base of communication. Having a wide vocabulary makes communicating with others in English a lot easier.

Why? Simply because you’ll be a lot more likely to understand the vocabulary they use. You will also be better able to express yourself fluently and in different ways.

And of course, your speech will sound more interesting because you are not using the same boring vocabulary over and over.

How to choose a book to improve your English

One of the challenges students have though is choosing exactly what to read. They often end up choosing a book that is either way too easy for them so it’s not engaging enough.

Or they choose a book that’s too challenging and thus they end up giving up on reading because they just couldn’t grasp the content of the book. This makes the book seem a lot more boring than it is and doesn’t improve your English.

So that’s what I’ll talk about today. If you want to know how to choose a book to improve your English, keep reading.

How to choose a book based on your interests

How to choose a book

What are your interests?

The first thing you have to decide on is what are your interest? You have to know what kinds of books interest you in the first place.

Are you a murder mystery fan? Are you into romance novels? Are you more interested in thrillers or do you just prefer self-help books?

Find the answer to that question before you start choosing. It’s important for you to choose something that you will actually be interested in.

This makes it more likely for you to actually finish the book because the topic is one you want to learn more about.

Improve your English by reading with a purpose

improve your english by reading

Why are you reading

Your reason for choosing a book to read is important when it comes to deciding on what level of difficulty to aim for. It also helps you to decide the correct genre to read. .

Personally, I think it’s good to explore multiple genres instead of always reading the same types of books. This exposes you to different vocabulary, styles of writing, and sentence structures.

This exposure in the long run will help boost your overall fluency. So decide on your “why” for reading a new book before moving on to my next tip.

If you are reading a book for academic purposes, for example, the level of difficulty most likely doesn’t matter.

If however, you are choosing a book for entertainment, relaxation, or self-help purposes, then you want to choose something that is not too challenging that you can’t understand anything.

You also want something that is not o easy that you breeze through it with no challenge at all.

One simple trick: how to choose a book to improve your English

the 5 finger rule_how to choose a book to improve your English

The 5 Finger Rule

Now let’s talk about how to determine the difficulty level of a book. You can use a simple method called The 5 Finger Rule. Basically what this means is that you will use 5 words to determine if the book is too easy or too difficult for you.

Here’s how? The next time you pick up a book that you want to read to improve your English, try randomly open it to any page in the book. Even if that page is all the way at the middle or towards the end.

Look at the first five (5) words you see on the page. Check if you know or understand any of those first five words.

If you don’t know any, then it’s a zero (0) out of five (5).

If you only know one (1) word, then it’s a 1 out of 5.

Only 2 words mean the book scores a 2 out of 5.

If you know 3 words, it’s a 3 out of 5.

If you know 4 of the five words then you would give it a score of 4 out of 5.

And if you know all 5 words then it gets a score of 5 out of 5.

A book that scores 5 out of 5 is too easy. If you know all the words and you can easily read them without having to think about it too much, it’s not challenging enough and most likely won’t enrich your vocabulary.

On the other hand, if you don’t know any of the words and the score is 0 out of 5, that book would be too difficult.

You want to aim for a difficulty level of about 2 or 3 out of 5. That’s a difficulty level that will both challenge and engage you.

This is important because it means it will be just challenging enough for you to learn new vocabulary and new expressions, which is one of your main reasons for reading new books in English.

Of course, it’s important to note that the 5 Finger Rule is only a guideline. I have read books that score a 1 out of 5 or even 0 out of 5 and enjoy them.

This is why I say, you need to know why you are reading. If you only want to entertain yourself or just to reinforce your current vocabulary, it’s perfectly fine to read an easy book. However, if your aim is to expand your vocabulary, aim for something with a higher level of difficulty.

Find great book recommendations here

The 5 Best Books to Help You Learn English

The Best “Best Sellers”: 22 Popular Books to Learn English From

10 best books to learn English with


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