The power of the news

Susan Ramsay

Learning a second language isn't always easy, but there is one simple way to guarantee progress

Susan Ramsay |

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Read a newspaper every day - reading even just one story will improve your language skills.
Newspapers and young people are my business. Sadly, it seems, the two do not often go together. Young people seem to have an aversion to reading newspapers - and who can blame them?

Newspapers can be quite daunting and often look boring. But newspapers are different from other publications, and learning "how" to read them can help you to get the best out of the experience.

You may be wondering why you should read a newspaper in the first place. Well, not only does it keep you informed about what's going on in your community, your city and the world, but if you're a second-language English speaker, it helps you to learn the language.

As seasoned journalists will tell you, when it comes to news, it's not the story that changes, just the names and places. In other words, news is written in a very specific way. So when you read a newspaper, you'll learn how to phrase things that you might write about at school. For instance, if you want to write about the weather, the news will have taught you that typhoons "barrel" into a place, and that they "pack" winds of 120 km/h.

You don't have to read a newspaper from cover to cover. It's very easy to know what a story is about because of the way news stories are written. All of the important information is at the top in the the first two paragraphs. If you want to know more, read on. But once you have covered those first two important paragraphs, you will already know the "news".

Many news stories are very long; but don't feel intimidated by page-long floods of text. You can choose stories that suit you - go for something shorter, preferably with a picture, to help you understand what is going on in the story.

If you read just one article a day, you will see vast improvement in your reading and writing skills, and a big leap in your general knowledge.

Because I am the editor of Young Post, students often ask me to tell them one thing they can do to improve their English. My answer is always the same - read the newspaper. Every day. It really doesn't take longer than 10 minutes to read most news articles, and you only have to read one. You could do it on the way home from school, instead of staring at your mobile and crushing a row of sweets in candy games. The benefits would be astounding.

If you read the news, you learn about events around the world. Your outlook is changed. Your thought processes are nurtured. You use critical-thinking skills as you deal with the facts, and form opinions about matters. Having an idea about what's going on means you can contribute useful thoughts to a conversation.

While this week we celebrated World Book Day, we at Young Post are keen to promote reading in any form, especially for pleasure. Most newspapers carry book reviews to whet readers' appetites for the latest books - alongside Young Post's book reviews, we often have books to give away, too. And, just recently, book publisher Scholastic generously gave us almost 200 books to give away to primary and secondary schools.

Reading gives you power. What are you waiting for?