Starting Extensive Reading Programs

at Universities, Vocational Schools and Language Schools

Julian Bamford
Bunkyo University

Roberta Welch
Toyo Women’s College

JALT Conference, Shizuoka; Extensive Reading Colloquium.
November 3, 2000

What is extensive reading? (HINT: It’s like reading in your first language!)

  • easy (1-2 unknown words per page; no dictionaries; general understanding)
  • students in charge (they choose what to read; they can stop in the middle)
  • no test after reading (student’s personal reaction to reading is the goal)

The benefits of extensive reading

  • learning to read (e.g. Hafiz & Tudor 1989)
  • learning the foreign language (e.g. Elley & Mangubhai 1981)
  • better attitude to language study and reading (e.g. Mason & Krashen 1977)

How to start

  • Supplement existing classes (bring books to class; Almost any teacher can do this!), or set up a self-access library and encourage students to use it.
  • Learn about extensive reading; advocate it; find allies at your school.
  • Push for an elective or required class to be added; be patient!

Making a library

  • Start now, and continually add books.
  • Use all available resources (examination copies, library and/or department orders, research funds [from supportive full-time colleagues?], book coupons, etc.)
  • What level? (EPER levels; beginner: G/F/E; intermediate D/C/B; advanced A/X)

Start low to build confidence
[EPER —]

What students do

  • They read in class and/or for homework (how much depends on program). After reading a book, they write a reaction report (e.g. feelings about story or characters).
  • Start by orienting students: benefits; how to choose books; how to read. If necessary, go over course requirements and grading system.
  • Evaluation options: teacher-student interviews; questionnaire (greater reading speed? confidence? enjoyment?); test (EPER extensive reading test; cloze test)


  • Read the same books as your students; turn them on to reading by your example.
  • Communicate individually with students: write comments on their reaction reports; recommend books you think they might enjoy. In sum. . .

. . .turn your classroom into a reading community

All references are in Richard R. Day & Julian Bamford. Extensive Reading in the Second Language Classroom. (Cambridge University Press)