Do your students like reading at home? Do they read books, article, news in English? How often do they read in English just for pleasure? Nowadays, the biggest challenge for teachers is not simply making students read but getting them to enjoy it too. In this article, you will find ideas on how to implement extensive reading into the lessons and how to encourage reading at home.
What is extensive reading?
Extensive reading or reading for pleasure is a way of language learning through large amounts of reading. The goal is to go beyond thinking of reading as a task, towards developing a habit of reading for pleasure. Students read these books on their own either in their free time or during classes. For Young Learners that might be a short story or a fairy tale, for teenagers and adults even a whole book. Reading is a skill that becomes better with practice. Therefore, there is a range of benefits gained from reading for pleasure:
— Extensive reading helps to improve reading comprehension in general.
— It enlarges vocabulary, improves literacy and language skills.
— It increases motivation, sense of achievement, confidence, self-esteem, and self-awareness.
— It widens horizons and teaches the right values.
— It develops learner autonomy.
Building reading for pleasure into teaching:
- Before students start reading at home, show them how to enjoy it in the lesson. You can encourage reading for pleasure as part of classes by scheduling a specific time for talking about reading for pleasure or having an Extensive Reading lesson.
- Create a reading atmosphere. With Young learners have a Reading Corner where they can sit on the carpet or have a break with Silent Reading Time when students get a new book, look through it and read individually without any help from the teacher.
- Have reading discussion in class. As a warm-up discuss what the learners have read that week (that can be anything! A piece of news, a post on Instagram, a book, a magazine article), pair students and ask to share what new they have learnt. Remember, a teacher should be a good model, so bring books, magazines and demonstrate your students how they should talk about their reading habits.
- Make reading a social experience. Set up a reading group for interested learners, discuss and regularly collect lists of learners’ recommendations, provide frames for reviewing or recommending books, encourage learners to book-share and swap. You can also put students into groups and ask them to choose one graded reader that they will all read.
- Be consistent! Practise the ideas above regularly, it will not work if you try to set a discussion just once a year: start every first lesson of the week with a reading discussion, ask to swap books every first day of the month. Adult students are very busy outside of class, so if you are serious about getting them reading, carve out reading time withput any worksheets or tasks (with just one task — read ans sgare the main ideas with your partner) into every lesson.
- Ensure students choose the right reading level. The key is to remember that extensive reading materials shouldn’t be too difficult or challenging for students. As a rule of thumb, students should choose books with less than four or five new vocabulary words on a page. Graded readers are ideal for students learning English because they can choose the right level for comfortable reading. Help students find appropriate books, explore how they feel about the characters, and keep track of what is being read. Useful resources: Oxford Graded readers, Macmillan Readers, I can Read.
- Reading for pleasure is no longer restricted to the printed word but increasingly includes online reading, whether on a website or via an e-reader such as a Kindle.
- Ask your students to try different types of readings: fiction (novels, short stories, jokes, comics, poetry, lyrics, plays, and scripts) and non-fiction (reference books, newsletters, letters, emails, biographies, memoirs, newspapers, magazines, websites).
- Ask students to keep an extensive reading journal with a few short paragraphs for each book they read (a quick summary, quotes they liked, their opinions, their favourite parts, and whether the book relates to their own experiences). This task is more appropriate for teenagers. You can read students’ journals from time to time to see how they are doing, and these journal can be used for classroom discussions related to the books students are reading.
How do you incourage your students to read just for themselves?