Expanding Your Vocabulary through Reading

The best way to expand your vocabulary is to read. This is the advice that is always given and it can be frustrating either because a) reading is not something you enjoy or b) you already read a lot. Here are a few tips to help you whether you are a reluctant or enthusiastic reader:

  1. If you are a reluctant reader or think it is boring, you probably have not yet found the type of writing that really appeals to you. You need to experiment with different types of writing. Don’t worry at first about the quality of what you are reading. Graphic novels, crime stories, football magazines, they are all valid choices. Just find something that you are interested in. Try asking a librarian, teacher or bookseller for help with choosing.
  2. Try reading before bed – go to bed a bit earlier if you need to. Not only will this give you a regular reading time, it will also allow your mind to unwind from screens before you go to sleep which will give you a better night’s sleep (this is good advice for students and adults – we all need to shut off those screens about an hour before we go to sleep).
  3. Even if you already read a lot, you might need to widen your reading so that you are exposed to different styles and more sophisticated vocabulary. See the reading list below.
  4. Keep a notebook when you read to make a note of interesting words or phrases or any thoughts you have while you read on the structure of the writing. If you are more mindful while you read, it will train you to spot things when you get to the exam and help save time. You can jot down quotations which you find inspirational or interesting.
  5. Check out the hashtag #bookstagram on Instagram for lots of inspiration for what to read next.
  6. You can learn a word a day from a list of more ambitious vocabulary. If you have access to my restricted resources, you can find some lists here. Write the word on a post-it note and stick it to your wall; try to use it in conversation that day; in a journal or your reading notebook, write down the word and definition and use it in a sentence.
  7. Read broadsheet newspapers. Read an article once a week and if you are able, discuss the article with your family or friends. Focus on how the viewpoint has been conveyed. Look at what perspective the writer is coming from.

Fiction Reading List for Enthusiastic Readers:

19th Century:

  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • The Sign of The Four by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle

20th Century:

  • To Kill and Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Empire of the Sun by J. G. Ballard
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding


  • Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve
  • His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman
  • A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  • More Than This by Patrick Ness
  • Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness
  • We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  • Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd
  • Every Day by David Levithan
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • A Fault in our Stars by John Green
  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
  • Stone Cold by Robert Swindells
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


  • Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
  • 127 Hours: Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
  • Notes from a Small Island by BIll Bryson
  • I know the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • A Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Online News Resources:



Phrases, simply speaking, are groups of two or more words.


Therefore, a noun phrase is a noun with its article or pronoun and adjectives which add more detail or information about the noun. In the example above, the noun ‘dog’ has been made more specific: ‘old’, ‘tired’, ‘with no tail’.

The two adjectives themselves form an adjectival phrase. Again, this simply means ‘more than one adjective’ Another adjectival phrase which could replace ‘old, tired’ in the example above could be ‘brown and spotty’, where two adjectives are joined by the connective ‘and’.

A adjectival phrase could also start with a preposition, like ‘with’ above, to add more information answering the question WHICH ONE? As it starts with a prepositional, it is also called a prepositional phrase.


Every sentence must have at least one verb to be a fully formed sentence. Verbs are doing, being or having words. In the example above, ‘slept’ is the verb as it is what the subject of the sentence, the dog, is doing.


To add more information to the verb, we can use adverbs (like ‘soundly’ above which addressed HOW the dog slept) and adverbial phrases. These answer the questions HOW (the manner in which) something is being done, WHERE is it happening or WHEN is it happening. Remember, a phrase is just more than one word so an adverbial phrase is where a group of words act like an adverb. In the example above ‘on the rug’ tells us WHERE the dog slept. As the phrase ‘on the rug’ beings with ‘on’, a preposition, it is also called a prepositional phrase.

Other useful terms:

Definite article: the – refers to a particular noun

The man entered the room.

Indefinite article: a / an – refers to any noun, or it is not important which noun

A dog ran across the road.

Possessive Pronoun: my, your, his, her, our, their

These show ownership of the noun, e.g. my old shoe, his football.

Relative pronoun: that, who, whom, whose, or which

These can introduce adverbial and adjectival phrases, e.g. the book that everyone was talking about…, his sister who was always late…


The subject of the sentence (shown in bold below) is the person or thing which is doing, being or having the verb.

The boy kicked the ball.
The girl was seven years old.
I had no money.
Education is very important.