Reading Pleasures and Tastes Adapted for Easy English Times Column

Easy English Times, an adult education newspaper for English language learners published in California, adapts a chapter from Compelling Conversations each month. The editors selected “Reading Pleasures”, one of my favorite chapters, to run in their November-December issue. Since Easy English Times focuses on the needs of beginning and intermediate ESL students, the editor selects the most accessible sections and adds dictionary definitions, creating a satisfying instant conversation activity.

Here is the Easy English Times Instant Activity for November-December.
Instant activity: Conversation

Reading pleasures and tastes

The activities below come from a book for English as a second language learners by Eric Roth and Toni Aberson. The title is “Compelling Conversations: Questions and Quotations on Timeless Topics.” (See ad on this page.)

Exchanging views: Reading is a solitary* activity, yet it can bring people together in conversation. Interview your partner and exchange reading experiences.

1. What are some books that you have read and enjoyed?
2. Have you ever re-read a book? Which? Why? How many times?
3. Do you have a library card? Do you like to browse* in bookstores?
4. Have you ever been in a book club? What kinds of books do/did you read in the book club?
5. Did your mother or other family member read to you as a child? Did you have a favorite story? What was it?
6. Where did you first learn to read? At home? At school?
7. What were your favorite books as a child? Who was your favorite author? Why?
8. As a teenager, did you have any favorite books, comics, or magazines? Can you describe them?
9. Which magazines or newspapers do you scan now*? Why?
10. Who are some famous writers from your country?
11. Can you think of some movies that are adapted from novels?
12. Do you prefer reading fiction or non-fiction? Why?
13. Do you have a favorite writer or poet? Who?
14. Did you have to memorize any poems in school? Which?
15. Have your read any good biographies? Memoirs*? Self-help books?
16. Are you reading a book now? What is it? Can you describe it?
17. Do you think books and magazines make good gifts? Why?
18. What book are you planning to read in the near future?

Quotations: Memorize your favorite quotation and author’s name. Share it with someone.
1. “Reading is to the mind, what exercise is to the body.” –Richard Steele (1672-1729), Irish writer
2. “No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting*.” –Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689-1762), British author/critic
3. “The pleasure of all reading is doubled* when one lives with another who shares the same books.” –Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923), short story writer and poet
4. “However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act upon them?” –Buddha (563-483 BC), founder of Buddhism
5. “Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them all.” –Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), essayist
6. “I would rather be poor in a cottage* full of books than a king without the desire to read.” –Thomas B. Macaulay (1800-1859), historian
7. “A book should serve as the ax* for the frozen sea within us.” –Franz Kafka (1883-1924), novelist
8. “Any book that helps a child to form the habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.” –Maya Angelou (1928-), American poet
9. “A truly great book should be read in youth*, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.” –Robertson Davies (1913-1995), Canadian novelist

On your own: Bring in a book which is important to you. Show the book to the class. Tell them the author, the title, and the reason why this book is important to you.

ax – An ax is a tool for cutting wood.
browse – If you browse in a store, you look at things in a casual way, in the hope that you might find something you like.
cottage – A cottage is a small house, usually in the country.
doubled – When something doubles or when you doubled it, it becomes twice as great in number, amount, or size.
essays – Essays are short pieces of writing on a particular subject.
lasting – You can use lasting to describe a situation, result, or agreement that continues to exist or have an effect for a very long time.
memoirs – A person’s memoirs are a written account of the people who they have known and events that they remember.
scan – When you scan written material, you look through it quickly in order to find important or interesting information.
solitary – A solitary activity is one that you do alone.
youth – Someone’s youth is the period of their life during which they are a child, before they are a fully mature adult.

*Definitions from the Collins COBUILD Intermediate Dictionary of American English, published by Heinle, a part of Cengage Learning © 2008 and the Newbury House Dictionary of American English 4th edition, by Rideout. © 2004 Monroe Allen Publishers. Heinle, a part of Cengage Learning enjoys an exclusive license with respect to the copyright and all the exclusive rights comprised in the copyright in the work and all revisions thereof.

I love these monthly columns because they keep me connected to adult education and my decade of teaching immigrants and refugees in Los Angeles and Santa Monica. The atmosphere in those classrooms, where everyone volunteered and no one worried about grades, is something quite special. We were just adults sharing our experiences, insights, and languages.

Ask more. Know more. Share more.
Create Compelling Conversations.


  1. Sure. Glad to share insights and tips into learning English.

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