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Easy Ways to Improve Your Vocabulary and Reading

Being able to read well helps in almost all parts of day-today life from following a recipe to filling out forms. It’s also an important skill in taking care of your health. For example, to take medicines properly, you can’t always rely on your memory of what a doctor told you. Instead you need to refer to the written instructions that he or she had printed on the outside of the bottle. This is why doctors have them printed there.

To read well, adults who had cancer during childhood need to work a little harder than others do. The reason is that difficulty with words and reading may result from the treatments you had or the cancer itself. You can’t change the facts that you had cancer or that the treatments may have caused reading problems; however, you can make the most of the reading skills you already have. One of the first steps is to increase the number of words that you recognize and understand.

Read, Read, Read.

You may not have been one of the kids who always had their noses stuck in a book. That’s ok. Starting right now you can still become a better reader. The easiest way is the simplest: Read. Read things that interest you. Read the newspaper, magazines, poems, plays, and stories. The more you read, the better you will get at it.

If you have trouble reading, listen first.

  • Listen to books being read. Words are meant to be heard, not just read silently. The act of listening to books being read calls your sense of hearing into play. This gives you another way to enjoy reading and to understand new words and phrases.
  • You can find lots of books on tape at your local library. You can check them out for a small fee or for free. Later you may want to check out the same books and read them for yourself.
  • Do you have speakers on your computer? You may be able to listen to a public radio program called “Radio Reader.” Many NPR stations across the nation broadcast this program.
  • What if your local NPR station does not carry this program? Search for “Radio Reader” on the Internet. You will find a list of stations that broadcast this program. The listing will also tell when the program is on the air on that station. Click on the link to connect to it and listen at that time.

Read at your level.

Start out with books that you find easy to read or just a little challenging. It is better to stay within your comfort zone and keep reading. Move to more difficult reading when you feel ready.

  • Many great writers such as Ernest Hemingway wrote in a plain style with common everyday words. Yet they packed their stories full of exciting people, places, and plots. Ask a librarian to help you find some of these authors and their books.
  • Seen any good books lately? Lots of classics and new books are now being printed in a comic book form called a “graphic novel.” These graphic novels use panel-by-panel illustrations to help tell the story. Again, ask your librarian or someone at a bookstore to help you find the section on graphic novels. Or look on the internet for a list. Many popular writers are making use of this book form.

Use your imagination.

Learn to enjoy reading. Picture the ideas and images described by the writer. Imagine yourself in the story.

Make a list of new words.

When you come across a word you do not know, look it up in a dictionary. What if you don’t have time to look up the word when you come across it? Make a list of words and look them up later.

Do you find a computer easier to use than a dictionary? Then go to an on-line dictionary to look up words. Merriam Webster on-line even pronounces words for you, making them easier to remember. You can also sign up to have a Word of the Day sent to your e-mail.

Play word games.

Examples are Scrabble, crossword puzzles and Mad Libs.

Watch educational shows.

You can learn a lot of new words by watching TV shows like NOVA or the Discovery Channel instead of your favorite sitcom.

Attend lectures.

Check out the free lectures at local colleges, universities and libraries. It’s never too late to learn something new!

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