How to Start Reading in English

For those of us who like reading, it can be discouraging to learn a new language and not be able to read anything we want.

Luckily, there’s actually a wealth of great things to read in English even for beginners. Whether you want English reading practice or just something fun and easy to read, we’ve got you covered.

The following reading materials will surely help you learn to read in English.

Easy News

There are a few news sources for English learners. The articles cover interesting topics in simple language, which makes them perfect for beginners. Here are a few:

  • Simple English News is updated with a new article every week. The articles are four to five sentences. Some even teach idioms.
  • News in Levels has news articles written at different levels. Beginners can use “Level 0” or “Level 1.”
  • Breaking News English has articles that are longer, but the sentences are very short, so beginners won’t feel intimidated.

There are also online news sites made for kids, which beginners will also learn a lot from. While the articles are written for kids, the topics they cover are interesting for people of all ages.

Graded Readers

Graded readers are books written for learners at different levels. To get a taste of graded readers, check out these free ones: 

And if you’re willing to buy books, check out the following:

  • Oxford has a huge collection of graded readers, available in both physical and digital forms. Select “A1” in the “Refine Results” box on the side to find the easiest books.
  • Collins has adapted Agatha Christie’s famous mystery books and written autobiographies for language learners. These are also available as physical and digital books.
  • Heibling adapts classic books for language learners, but also writes original fiction stories as well.

Children’s Books

It might be strange to recommend children’s books to adults. However, keep in mind that a lot of the best children’s content is also enjoyable for adults. Here are some examples:

Plus, books written for kids are often higher quality than books for language learners. So don’t avoid something just because it’s written for children!

Our top recommendation in this category is Great Illustrated Classics — a series of 66 classic books adapted for young readers. It includes The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Gulliver’s Travels, Heidi, and more! The font is very large and there is a picture on every other page.

However, you can also find free children’s books at the following sources:

Poetry

Poems are great for beginners, because they’re usually short and sweet. Here are some famous ones to get you started:

Poets.org has a good list of simple poems divided by subject. For example, there are poems on love, nature, technology, and travel

You might also want to explore the forms of short poetry like the limerick and the haiku.

  • Limericks are poems with five lines. They rhyme and are usually silly. Read some here. The most famous limerick poets are Edward Lear, Ogden Nash, and Lewis Carroll.
  • Haikus are poems with three lines. The first and third lines have five syllables while the second one has seven. Read some here.

You can also find books of just these types of poems. For haikus, you can see Andrew Clement’s Dogku (the story of a dog told through haiku poems), Jack Prelutzky’s If Not For the Cat, and Nikki Grime’s A Pocketful of Poems.

Finally, don’t forget about famous children’s poetry books like those by Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein. They’ve written poems that probably most kids in English-speaking countries have read and that even adults mention in conversation.

However, keep in mind that poems often aren’t grammatically correct and often use some words that aren’t commonly used these days. So don’t try to understand them 100%. 

Just enjoy the sound and rhythm and have fun reading them out loud! (Hint: they help with pronunciation.) If you need help understanding them, you can also find explanations and summaries of these poems online. 

Or take lessons with online tutors, who can help you understand them!

Jokes & Riddles

English has lots of jokes and riddles. A classic type of joke in English is the knock-knock joke. Knock-knock jokes work like this:

  • Person A says “knock knock” (as if knocking on a door)
  • Person B asks, “Who’s there?” 
  • Person A replies with a name of someone or something, e.g. “Olive.”
  • Person B asks, “Olive who?” (as if asking for Olive’s last name).
  • Person A replies with a pun, “Olive next door. Hi neighbor!” (“Olive sounds like “I live”).

Here are some knock-knock jokes to get you started. There are also lots of other types of jokes like “What do you get if you cross an X and Y?”. Check out some more jokes here.

If you like jokes, you might like riddles too! Riddles require you to guess an answer to a question. For example, “What goes up but never comes down?” (your age). Check out riddles here.

Jokes and riddles often play with words, so they might be a little difficult to understand. For some easier ones recommended by English teachers around the world, check out this website.  

Stories

Stories are also a good way to start reading. You can try reading some “short stories.” Here are some websites with short stories for beginners:

And if you’re OK with kids’ content, check out these resources:

A well-known type of story is a “fable,” which teaches you a lesson at the end. The most famous ones are Aesop’s fables. You can read them online here or get a book that contains all of them.

Simple English Wikipedia

Did you know that Wikipedia has a version in simple English? All the articles are written using simple vocabulary and grammar. 

It doesn’t have as many articles as the original Wikipedia, but you can still learn about a lot of topics, ranging from baseball uniforms to COVID-19.

Use the “Show any page” function on the side to see a random page and read about something new!

Reading Exercises

Finally, here are a few websites that provide free reading exercises online:

These websites provide short passages along with questions and exercises to test your comprehension.

There are also great interactive websites for improving your reading comprehension skills. These may not be designed for ESL learners, but they have plenty of beginner content. Here are some we recommend:

  • ReadTheory: Unlike the sites above, ReadTheory is interactive. For example, if you get a question wrong, it’ll explain the correct answer. It also tests your level and changes what passages you see according to how you answer the questions.
  • ReadWorks: This one is based on the latest research on reading.

Start Reading!

We hope this has given you an idea of all the things you can read as a beginner. Which resources do you find interesting? Which resources do you think you’ll use?

Whatever you choose, remember that the only way to get better at reading is to read a lot, so get your reading journey started as soon as possible!

But what if you see a sentence, paragraph, or joke you can’t figure out the meaning of? Or maybe you feel like you’re reading a lot, but unsure if you’re pronouncing the words correctly?

Well, get help from an online tutor at Engoo! Many of our students read passages aloud with tutors and ask them questions about parts they don’t understand. Plus, the first lesson is on us, so you have nothing to lose!