Benefits of Extensive Reading


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

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


Reading Resources for Chinese

There are many great reading resources for leaners of Chinese at various proficiency levels.

Graded Readers
These books are specifically created for language learners. Each book is created for a specific level (e.g. beginner, intermediate, advanced) and employ limited vocabulary and simplified grammar.

Chinese Breeze Series(汉语风)
(Level 1-4) (300/500/750/1100 Unique Words)

Friends Chinese Graded Reader (好朋友汉语分级读物)
(Level 1-6) (150/300/600/1200/2500/5000 Unique Words)

Mandarin Companion (Level 1-2)
(300/450 Unique Characters)
mandarin companion

Rainbow Bridge Graded Chinese Reader (彩虹桥汉语分级读物)
(Level 1-6) (150/300/750/1000/1500/2500 Unique Words)

Learn Chinese Graded Reader (汉语分级读物)
(Level 1-3) (500/800/1200 Unique Characters)

Skills Books for Reading

These are textbooks specifically created to help develop your reading skills such as reading speed and reading comprehension.

Short-Term Reading Chinese (汉语阅读速成)

Read This Way (这样阅读)

Native Material
Once you reach a high enough proficiency level, native material can also become accessible.  Particularly, books or stories that are geared towards primary or middle school reading may be easy enough for language learners.


Title 名字 Unique Characters Unique Words
Fantastic Mr Fox 了不起的狐狸爸爸 1227 1927
Little House on the Prairie 草原上的小木屋 1398 2479
The Little Prince 小王子 1496 2572
The House on Mango Street 芒果街上的小屋 1859 3495
Grandma in the Apple Tree 苹果树上得外婆 1875 3670
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 查理和巧克力工厂 2038 4227
To Live 活着 1881 4361
Charlotte’s Web 夏洛的网 2112 4445
Chronicles of Narnia – Book 1 纳尼亚传奇 – 狮子女巫魔衣橱 2149 4827
Peter Pan 彼得潘 2505 6709
Wolf King Dream 狼王梦 2826 7457
Harry Potter – Book 1 哈利波特与魔法石 2582 7738
Hunger Games – Book 1 饥饿游戏1 2728 8458
Anne of Green Gables 禄山墙的安妮 2751 8879
Twilight – Book 1 暮光之城1 2818 9472