Can Reading Help Your Vocabulary? (Answered!)
You’ve probably heard that reading is key to a healthy mind and is a great exercise for your brain. But what makes it so special? Why should you squeeze in time to read every day? Does it improve vocabulary?
Reading helps to improve your vocabulary significantly. The more you read, the more extensive your vocabulary will be. Reading also improves your conversation, comprehension skills, and cognitive abilities. It also helps develop a profound understanding of the language you read.
People who read regularly have a better vocabulary and develop a greater understanding of how to use words to express themselves than those who don’t read. A rich vocabulary also helps you express your thoughts and ideas more easily and get them across more effectively.
In this post, we’ll discuss how reading is a valuable asset that helps expand your active vocabulary, how reading books helps to achieve this, and some practical tips to help maximize your reading potential. Let’s begin.
What is the relationship between reading and vocabulary?
A good vocabulary is more important than what you might think. From developing incredible conversation skills to expanding your knowledge base, a good vocabulary impacts your life on many levels. Therefore, even in everyday conversations, its relevance shouldn’t be underestimated.
Reading and vocabulary have a direct proportional and mutual relationship. Reading exposes you to new words, so the more you read, the better your vocabulary will be. Vocabulary, in turn, leads to better comprehension as you’re exposed to more words.
Vocabulary is the words you use daily to communicate or express your thoughts. Thus, vocabulary takes center stage when learning to read, pushing your brain to its memory limits and improving your reading comprehension skills.
On the other hand, reading is a complicated process involving the simultaneous interaction of the four cue systems: phonological, syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic.
- The phonological system is what you hear inside your head when reading, a concept known as subvocalization.
- Syntactic cues are the order of words in the text you’re reading or the grammar clues that help build the relationships between words.
- The semantic cues refer to the vocabulary.
- The schematic cues are the clues you generate in your mind based on your previous knowledge.
When used simultaneously, all these cues help you read more effectively, understand your reading, and improve your vocabulary.
You now know how vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension are closely associated. What needs to be clarified is how this association is interpreted. One interpretation can be that individual differences in reading ability contribute to the differences in vocabulary.
Reading something daily will expose you to more printed new words and develop a larger vocabulary over time. In contrast, if you’re not fond of reading a lot, you’ll have limited vocabulary exposure and a lack of reading skills, which hampers your vocabulary development.
Furthermore, vocabulary and reading are interrelated as they share common processes. Growing your vocabulary means mapping the semantic meaning of a particular word to its phonological form. Similarly, reading depends on connecting an expression’s semantic, phonological, and orthographic units.
So, any weaknesses in these underlying processes, such as difficulties in acquiring information from text or deficits in memory, can contribute to poor vocabulary and, ultimately, poor reading skills.
You can check out our Personal Productivity course, which helps you make time for reading while also boosting your productivity.
How important is reading?
Vocabulary and reading are both important concepts for any written language. It is recommended to read for at least fifteen minutes every day.
Reading should be encouraged from a young age. It helps to expand on ideas and aids the learning process. It also aids their imagination and creativity by stimulating the brain to promote cognitive development.
Apart from the benefits to your brain, regular reading also helps reduce stress levels by 68% and lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
Moreover, it also improves your ability to empathize with others. Research shows that regular fiction readers develop a better “theory of mind,” which describes your ability to empathize and understand what others feel.
Also, if you’re facing memory problems and forgetting things, you can always read books to improve your memory. For instance, if you read a non-fiction book, you’ll consume an enormous amount of information on the subject.
In the same way, if you read a novel, you have to remember all the relationships between characters – which the protagonist is related to, what other relationships are, how many supporting characters are there, and so much more.
All this new information you gain helps strengthen your mind, creating synapses, and new memories, ultimately leading to improved vocabulary that you can effortlessly use in everyday conversations.
You can also check out the Maximizing Memory course from Iris Reading which lets you retain more information, understand what you’re reading and remember it, enhance your vocabulary, and improve your comprehension skills.
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How can reading books improve your vocabulary?
Before the dawn of the digital era, reading was a common ritual for everyone who wanted to gain more knowledge. It was even a new year’s resolution for many people to “read more.”
As time passed, books became replaced by social media, and people found themselves engulfed in a new hobby and letting go of a good one. Sticking to a hobby like reading helps you stimulate your mind and has many benefits, one of which is vocabulary expansion.
Reading books helps improve our vocabulary by exposing you to new words. It also helps you gain more command over any topic and enhance your understanding. Reading more books also makes you more self-confident when using new vocabulary while building stronger analytical and thinking skills.
Let’s look at some ways reading can help stimulate your mind and improve your vocabulary.
Reading exposes you to new words and concepts
Reading more opens our brains to so many new concepts. It makes you more welcoming to new thoughts and helps you better understand different concepts. Exposure to new vocabulary also improves your language skills and, ultimately, your communication skills.
It doesn’t matter what you read – fiction, non-fiction, new articles – every topic lets you explore different perspectives, learn about different ideas, and transport you to a world you never knew about.
Moreover, reading also broadens your understanding of how different cultures work, helps you gain more experience, and lets you put yourself in someone else’s position and gain new perspectives.
This powerful tool lets you form your opinions by evaluating new concepts and ideas. This not only aids in your vocabulary learning but is also a valuable trait for your personal growth.
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Reading is an intense mental exercise
Reading is an immersive experience that lets your brain come along with imagery and emotions and even turn on your senses. This indulges your brain in an intense mental exercise that expands muscles and allows more information to be stored.
Even though reading books is considered a great hobby, it has much more to offer. It lets you build exercise momentum for your brain, engage in effective reading sessions, improve your reading abilities, and much more.
However, different types of reading activate different parts of your brain and give different experiences. For instance, pleasure reading increases blood flow to different areas of the brain.
In contrast, close literary reading makes your brain’s complex cognitive functions more active.
An active mind also has the power to boost your productivity. A few minutes of focused reading help improve your focus and develop a clear vision. So, as you process the text, your memory works to hold in the information and develop a coherent understanding of the material and the vocabulary within.
Read also: Are There Exercises to Improve Memory?
Reading helps make connections between words
If, while reading, you start creating images in your head, it means you’re making connections between words. These images in your head are crafted from your experiences, interests, and identities.
Reading also helps develop contextual understanding by offering valuable cues that help you understand unfamiliar words. This fosters the semantic relationships between words that help you develop relations from one word to another, enhancing your overall language comprehension.
Let’s understand this with an example.
What comes to mind when you think of the word “comfort?” Does it make you think of your home, pet, person, or experience? How do you form an image around this word by incorporating your personal experiences? Does it make you think of other contexts, synonyms, associated words, or anything else?
For instance, you may link comfort to words like safety, warmth, contentment, and satisfaction. Or, you could relate the word to opposite words like discomfort, displeasure, gloom, or sadness. The interpretation can also depend on the reading material you choose.
Moreover, you may also relate the word to a specific time or experience where you felt comfortable. Thus, these links prove to be a powerful arsenal for understanding a language by connecting concepts, experiences, and memories.
All these different contexts help you make your vocabulary better and use it in appropriate settings.
Reading enhances memorization skills
Reading improves memory by stimulating the brain and accelerating the formation of neurons. The more you read, the easier it becomes to recall what you read due to mental exercise. Reading also helps increase concentration levels, which is important for retaining information.
Also, reading something new helps create long-term changes within the bilateral somatosensory cortex, responsible for processing sensory information in the brain.
Reading also helps neurons transmit more clear messages to different parts of the brain. This is because of a process known as neurogenesis that helps grow the number of neurons in your brain and ultimately improves your memory skills.
The brain also improves your memory by helping you create a mind map of whatever is written. This mind helps process the words you read, memorize them, build their coherency, and recall them when needed.
Active reading also helps consolidate the information so you can remember new and unknown words. Reinforcing the different word usage and repeated exposure to them helps strengthen your brain’s neural pathways associated with that information, too, thus improving your vocabulary.
Read also: Does Reading Improve Memory?
Reading improves grammar and punctuation
When you read a lot of text, you get familiar with how paragraphs are placed, the grammar used, and how to properly use punctuation marks. It helps you recognize different patterns and also understand grammar rules implicitly.
Punctuation and grammar are both very different concepts. Punctuation refers to all the little symbols that enhance sentences and clarify them. These punctuations can develop relationships between words and sentences, indicate where to pause, and even depict the emotions sentences carry.
Grammar, on the other hand, helps to understand how to put together sentences and paragraphs to form meaning. It dictates what words should go where and why.
So, reading any form of text helps you erase confusing clauses in grammar and punctuation. You get to know how to use them properly.
For instance, a misplaced comma does not make much of a difference but changes the entire meaning of a sentence. So, if you’re used to reading a lot, you can easily spot this mistake.
Reading doesn’t you the basic rules of punctuation or grammar. But it exposes you to tricky grammatical situations that help you learn the rhythm and cadence of well-punctuated and grammatically-correct sentences.
Also, as you read more, your brain develops an intuitive understanding of these rules that help you construct grammatically sound sentences.
You may also like to read: 12 Ways to Improve Your Vocabulary and Writing Skills
Reading deepens language proficiency
Language proficiency is how well a language you have mastered. It’s a different concept from fluency as it refers to the ability to communicate accurately, while fluency is a measure of the smoothness of your speech.
Reading helps to improve your control and command over a certain language, improves your background knowledge of the language, and develops metacognitive skills for the language.
Thus, your ability to convey your message accurately and fluently can be significantly improved by reading complex sentence structures, interpreting nuances, and deciphering the meaning behind every text you reach. All this gives you a deeper understanding of your vocabulary in a particular language.
Reading reinforces word usage
Understanding collocations and word usage is an important step toward improving your vocabulary. Reading extensively helps to learn collocations and understand their context in the text so you know how to use them correctly.
Collocations are words that are used frequently together. These words form natural connections to one another. For instance, the words “strong” and “coffee” go together naturally in English to form the phrase “strong coffee.”
Knowing proper word usage and collocation helps build a more accurate understanding of the text you’re reading. Thus, it improves your language fluency and helps you speak naturally. Also, knowing what words go together helps you avoid common mistakes and improve your proficiency.
Lastly, word usage also helps understand various forms of writing and literature, like metaphors and idioms. Knowing different words and their relevant usages helps you understand and comprehend figurative language.
Check out our course on Advanced Comprehension and Memory to help you understand useful strategies to improve your reading comprehension, grammar, and memory.
Reading increases your skill in an area of interest
Technical text or reading anything of your interest enhances your skills in the area. It also allows you to understand expert insights on the topic and gain something valuable. It’s also a great way to refine your existing skills and master them.
Whether you’re into tech and innovation or are interested in something creative, reading can help. Reading ignites your creativity and helps you draw inspiration from written pieces to infuse in your work.
More knowledge enables you to make informed decisions and stay on top of a learning curve. Reading in your areas of interest, like business or arts, also fosters a culture of continuous growth and motivates you to seek out new knowledge within your preferred domain and increase your vocabulary in that domain.
Reading makes you better at writing
Good writing is key to helping you improve your critical thinking skills and see how others depict their ideas through different written pieces. Reading helps you develop your own style and find new ways to convey your ideas.
Thus, making reading a part of your daily life is important to improve your writing. The more diverse writing styles you come across, the better you can express yourself, and it also improves your word choice.
You understand words and their context better and use them more effectively when you converse or write something. Reading more also helps to express your thoughts clearly when writing something..
When you read something, your brain absorbs the information like a sponge in three ways:
- By saying the word out loud
- By thinking about what the word means
- And by looking at the placement of the word
All this combined helps you to develop a well-formatted and cohesive piece of writing that transitions between paragraphs smoothly and follows a logical sequence.
Reading challenges your imagination
Reading is a good way to transport yourself to another place at any time, anywhere. It helps you exercise your imagination to improve your ability to visualize what you’re reading.
Moreover, it also lets you brainstorm through your mind, generate ideas, and unleash your creativity. So as you read different stories, you step into those characters’ shoes and understand their struggles and how they tackle problems.
All these stories push you to think beyond traditional storytelling and open your mind to more possibilities that convey deeper meanings only a good reader can understand.
Reading improves analytical skills
Analytical skills mean identifying a problem and developing a high-level cognitive ability to solve it. Strong analytical skills are triggered by regular reading as it positively impacts your brain function.
Engaging in active reading activities also helps you look at things from different perspectives, identify patterns, ask questions, and make connections. That is because reading more helps to build predictions in your mind, which makes you think critically too.
For instance, when reading a novel, your brain starts contemplating what will happen next. You start making predictions and conclusions, challenging your cognition and keeping your brain active.
Your brain acts like a muscle, and your body needs regular exercise to function optimally. Your brain muscles also require this. Thus, reading more and spending less time on the internet keeps your brain in constant action and improves problem-solving.
To learn more about this, read: How Does Repetition Help Memory and Memorization?
Reading slows down cognitive decline
Reading makes you focus on one thing and prevents your thoughts from wandering. This improved focus helps you concentrate on one task at a time, a critical skill that allows you to carry out everyday activities more accurately.
However, your mind grows weak if you leave it unattended. We talked about how reading is an intense exercise, which is why it improves your cognition and decreases your memory decline.
Hence, actively reading keeps reprogramming and expanding your memory, which helps you prevent severe types of cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease.
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How can I improve my vocabulary by reading books?
Books on a shelf wait for you to embrace them and discover the stories within. The captivating narratives, mind-boggling stories, and intriguing characters all enrich your vocabulary along the way.
Choosing what you like to read to learn vocabulary is important. Keep an eye out for words you don’t understand and log them in a journal. Use those words in your everyday language to comprehend their context better, which also sounds natural.
If you’re not into reading books, starting with something small, even for a few minutes, is the right way to begin. Think of it like warming up your brain for an intense workout session ahead.
At the start, it’ll feel like your brain muscles are sore, just like when you first begin physical exercise. But as time passes, your brain muscles become more trained and accustomed to receiving more information and improving your vocabulary.
Remember, it’s important to stay consistent, as improving your vocabulary through reading is a gradual process. So, whenever you read, find a peaceful spot and enjoy your time through whatever you choose to read.
Let’s look at some tips and tools that can help you catch on to this brilliant habit and, in the process, lead to improved vocabulary.
Read every day
Reading daily is not only enjoyable, but you also get to learn a lot and improve your memory. It’s one of the best ways to boost your brain cells and improve your vocabulary.
It’s also a nice hobby to practice every day that doesn’t require you to put in a lot of effort. And it also brings in many benefits apart from improving your vocabulary.
It’s great for improving not just your intellect but emotional intelligence as well. It also lets you unwind at the end of the day, reduce your stress by escaping into another world, and recharge your mind.
The more you’re exposed to good written content, the more you’ll be able to enhance your language proficiency and speaking skills. It also helps you become more adept at articulating your thoughts and ideas.
Thus, reading every day is something you should look forward to that would also impact your personal growth and improve your thinking abilities.
Reading actively means reading with a purpose and not just for the sake of it. It helps you engage with the text mindfully and intentionally analyze it to grasp the actual meaning of what you’re reading, so your vocabulary can improve.
When you try to understand something, you leave no stone unturned. This process helps extract any detail that may have gone unnoticed and helps you truly understand the context.
So, before diving into the text, determine your purpose behind it. Reflect on your goals throughout your reading session, and pay attention to the relevant details.
It’s also a good idea to take notes and connect what you’re reading to anything similar you may have experienced. All these efforts help to make your reading speed effective and your experience immersive.
Finally, reviewing what you read and reinforcing the key findings to help you understand the context better is always a good idea.
You can also take notes along the way to improve your vocabulary when reading books. Our Effective Note-Taking course helps you understand the best strategies when taking notes and the pitfalls to avoid.
If you need help reading effectively every day, or it takes up too much of your time, our extremely effective speed reading tool can help you get on the right track.
The Accelareader is a reading productivity tool that lets you choose how fast you’d like to read depending on the words per minute. You can toggle the settings and choose how many words you’d like to be flashed at a time, adjust the text size, and do much more.
It’s best to start at lower speeds and gradually increase the speed to help you become more comfortable with reading. The tool lets you adjust the pace while gradually pushing to your speed limits without compromising comprehension.
Also, it lets you remember the vocabulary much more clearly and helps you retain the information.
Does reading aloud improve vocabulary?
Any type of reading, whether silent or aloud, helps improve your vocabulary. Reading aloud is more effective in boosting your vocabulary as it helps you pay attention to words more clearly.
When you read loudly, your reading speed corresponds to how much attention you pay to the words. You can skim through the text too, but that won’t help you truly understand anything written in detail.
Also, reading aloud forces you to slow down, enunciate the words you’re reading, and take care of when to pause, like after a comma or a colon, and thus has a positive effect on how you understand new and unfamiliar words.
Reading aloud is also great for vocabulary since it makes your memory stronger. You’re likely to retain more information when reading out loud compared to silent reading. That’s because when you hear yourself say unfamiliar words, it also increases the chances of remembering those words and their relevant context.
It also helps you practice the vocabulary and become more comfortable with its pronunciation and usage. So when you read loudly, you’re more likely to care for fluency and expression. Vocalizing these words lets you get more comfortable with their flow and ends up helping you in both spoken and written communication.
Moreover, your attention span also improves as a result. It fully engages your senses and makes it more interesting than reading silently. You’re also more likely to stay focused if you read loudly, which is a great advantage if you’re reading to improve your vocabulary.
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Takeaway: Unlock vocabulary mastery through reading
Reading is a powerful practice that improves your vocabulary significantly, helps with language development, improves conversational skills, and helps you choose better words in any context.
When you read more, you train your mind to get more knowledge, improving your memorization skills too. Thus, it’s a great practice to reinforce word usage, improve your grammar and punctuation, and allows you to develop a richer vocabulary to express yourself more effectively.
Whether you read non-fiction, fiction, or any new article, you’ll be surprised at the benefits it reaps for you.
The Maximizing Memory course is a great option to learn and remember more words effectively. Take action today toward building a better vocabulary and achieving success.