An Introduction to Extensive Reading
What is Extensive Reading?
Have you ever tried to read a book in English, and given up before you reached the end? Perhaps the book was too long or too difficult. Perhaps it wasn’t very interesting. Perhaps you had to read the book in class, and spent so much time looking up words in your dictionary and analyzing the grammar that you didn’t get very far. This kind of reading, where you slowly discover the meaning of an English text, is called intensive reading. Intensive reading is a good way to study grammar and learn vocabulary, but it doesn’t help you become a fluent reader.
The aim of extensive reading (多読) is to help learners develop the ability to read fluently in a foreign language. The main difference between intensive and extensive reading is in the amount of reading. Even though Japanese students spend a lot of time studying English, they don’t actually read very much. This is often because the texts are so difficult that it takes a lot of time to read just a few lines. As a result students do not develop the confidence and skills they need to read English well. Extensive reading encourages students to read easy books, especially at first. Students read quickly, in their own time, without using a dictionary. They choose their own books, read a lot of books, and it gradually becomes easier.
What should I read?
You can read anything you like, as long as it isn’t too difficult. Some people like to read magazines. Some people like to read children’s books. Best of all though, are books called graded readers.
What are graded readers?
Graded readers are books that have been written or adapted especially for learners of English as a foreign language. There are hundreds to choose from, and a wide variety of genres: mystery, adventure, romance, thrillers, literary classics, recent bestsellers, and books based on movies and TV dramas. There are non-fiction books too, on topics such as business, sport and travel.
How are they graded?
Publishers usually grade their readers by the total number of headwords (words that have their own entry in the dictionary). A beginner-level reader will have around 300-400 headwords, and an intermediate-level reader will have 1500-1900 headwords. Vocabulary and grammar is also carefully graded. Book length also varies. A beginner-level reader may have 20-30 pages of text, while an advanced-level reader may have over 100 pages.
Where can I find them?
You can find a library of graded readers in the Foreign Language Centre’s Self-Study Room (自習室) in Chuo-to 6F. It is open access, which means that you can browse freely, and every reader has a coloured label showing the book’s level (see the chart here). ***link to level chart You can look at the graded reader catalogue online here.
What level am I?
In order to develop reading fluency, you need to read quickly. In order to read quickly, you need to know all, or nearly all, of the words on the page. If there are four or five unfamiliar words or phrases on each page, the book is probably too difficult for you to read without a dictionary. If this is the case, choose a book from the next level down. Keep going down until you find the level where the books are fairly easy for you to read, but still interesting. Another way to find your level is to check your TOEICR score or Eiken level on the chart in the Self-Study Room and here.
(*******Link to leve chart) Find the level equivalent to your score, and then go down at least one level.
I’ve found a book I want to read. Now what do I do?
Sign out your book and its audio recording at the counter in the Self-Study Room. You can borrow up to three books (and their audio components) for two weeks. Before you start reading, look through the book. Most readers have a list of new words at the back. There may be a list of people at the front, or a map, to help you understand the story. Many readers also have pictures. Graded Readers usually have a few pages of activities and exercises, either at the back of the book or after each chapter. If you don’t want to do the activities, skip them. If you do want to do them, use your own paper. Don’t write in the books.
When you finish your book, return it and borrow another one. After you have read lots of books at your first level and are ready, move up to the next level and keep going. Happy reading!
東京都豊島区目白１－５－１ 中央教育研究棟６階 外国語教育研究センター
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