Benefits of Extensive Reading

books

Extensive reading is an approach to language learning that emphasizes reading large amounts of comprehensible text.  Both intensive reading and extensive reading are important, but language learners often end up spending the majority of their time doing intensive reading.

What is extensive reading?
– Reading is for developing fluency and overall understanding
– The text is longer (e.g. short story, novel)
– The learner selects what is enjoyable and interesting
– The text is relatively easy
– Mostly performed out of class

How does it differ from intensive reading?
– Reading is for a specific focus (e.g. grammar, vocabulary)
– Often short texts followed by comprehension questions
– The text is usually selected by the teacher or is the same for all learners (e.g. textbook)
– The text is usually quite difficult
– Often performed in class

What is comprehensible or easy text?
Most researchers specifically cite the need for the learner to find text that is 98% comprehensible.  In other words, in any given paragraph or page there is only 1 unknown word in every 50 words.  When a learner finds text at this sweet spot, they can enjoy the reading process without being slowed down by having to look up many words in the dictionary.

What are the benefits of extensive reading?
Good things happen to students who read a great deal in the foreign language. Research studies show they become better and more confident readers, they write better, their listening and speaking abilities improve, and their vocabularies get richer. In addition, they develop positive attitudes toward and increased motivation to study the new language.” (Bamford, Day, 2004, pg. 1)

Where can I learn more about extensive reading?
The Extensive Reading Foundation has a great guide to extensive reading (and is available in English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, Farsi, Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic):
Extensive Reading Guide

Extensive Reading Resources:
Resources for Chinese

REFERENCES
Bamford J., Day R.R. (eds) (2004). Extensive Reading Activities for Language Teaching. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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