STEP 1: Planning your program – ‘Think Big, Start Small’

The program needs to be designed so it can grow each year. You probably have to answer these (and many more) questions:

  • How much do learners need to read, and how often?
  • Should class time be allocated to this? If so, how much and when?
  • How many books do we need to cover different levels of abilities and interests?
  • Should we integrate Extensive Reading into an existing class, or have a special Extensive Reading class?
  • Where should we keep the books? How should we manage the library?
  • When, and how often, do learners change their books?
  • How do we manage borrowing and lending of books?
  • How do we assess the learners?
  • How do we find money for this?
  • Who is responsible for running this program?

Should they read in class or at home?

Teachers can maximize the amount of reading time by asking learners to read both out of class and in class. Some teachers set aside a whole class or part of a class as a silent reading time so they can monitor learners’ reading. If class time is not available learners can read at home, or wherever they like. However, a little class time is needed to allow learners to change their books and for the teacher to monitor the reading. Teachers can set a certain time every day/or week when the library is open for learners to change their books. The amount of time you devote to the reading is a crucial aspect

Requiring them to read. Optional or required?

Requiring them to read gives the following messages

  1. Reading is important – you should do it
  2. It’s part of your grade
  3. It tell the parents and administration that you value their reading

NOT requiring them to read gives the following messages

  1. We don’t value the reading
  2. It’s not as important as other things so we won’t grade you on it

Most students if given the option to opt-in or opt-out of something will opt-out. If you make the reading optional, they will opt-out. This is a common finding even for the ‘better’ students. Students are all busy and if you ask to take an extra hour of there week for this reading, they won’t do it. As we know it is so vital they read we have to require it. One of the main reasons ER programs fail is that at first students read and then opt-out.

When students start to take their books home, it’s good to write a letter to the parents and tell them to ask if their child is doing the reading. This improves the school-parent relationship. Click here for how to promote the home-school reading relationship.

How many books do we need?

Schools typically ask learners to read about one book a week. The following equation may help you to decide how many books you need.

number of classes    x     class sizes        x   number of books per learner

=  The number of books needed

For example, in a school with 4 classes each with 30 learners, who each need 3 books to select from, means 360 books. You might also need class sets of some titles so, for this school with 120 learners, 500 books is a good number with which to start. However, you may need to start with fewer books, in which case one book per learner is acceptable.

STEP 2: Setting up the library – ‘Be Practical and Realistic’

It is important for learners to know how to use the Extensive Reading library, how to check out and return graded readers. The systems should be clear and simple for everyone to understand.

Which Graded Readers should I buy?

You will need a wide selection of interesting books is needed to satisfy the needs of different learners. Your library should include:

  • Both fiction and non-fiction age-appropriate readers.
  • A wide range of topics and genres, including romance, detective, drama, thrillers etc.
  • Different levels of difficulty, for both beginners and advanced learners.
  • If possible, choose readers that will interest students 5-10 years from now.
  • Some class sets of popular readers, for class reading.

There’s more information on understanding what graded readers are and how to choose the right ones.

Where do we keep the books?

The Library The school library is the best place because they have book borrowing systems already set up. However, not all libraries have the space or staff for a huge increase in book borrowing.

A bookcase; Many teachers keep the books in a bookcase in the classroom or the teacher’s room.

Book boxes / book bags  If several classes share the same readers you may wish to split your books into separate boxes. Every few weeks you can exchange reader boxes with another class to ensure the learners get a wide variety of readers.

Teacher’s room   If you have a class set of books all with the same title, keep them separate from the main library or in the teacher’s room so that the class doesn’t read them before you use them in class.

Cataloging the books

A book cataloging system should not be complicated. See here for an example system. Most Extensive Reading programs have several levels of difficulty. Note that not all publishers use the same grading scheme and you may need to use your own. Most teachers level their books by the headword count. Here is one leveling system, but you may wish to create your won depending on the learners you have.

1. Color code each book by using colored tape or labels.  For example, Level 1 readers could be marked yellow, Level 2 readers marked blue, and so on.

2. Make a unique book number for each reader somewhere on the book, so the numbers can be recorded by your book management system.  For example:

G-70  – G = the books color (green) and the book number (70).

If you have multiple copies of the same book you can mark them and number 1, 2, 3 and so on  G-70-1, G-70-2, G70-3, or simply just allocate a new number to each one, G-70, G71, G72.  You’ll need to keep a record of which numbers you are up to so. You don’t need to keep a record of how many books there are at each level – all you need to ensure is that every book has a unique number.

You may wish to use the year it was bought (e.g. G-08-70 (book 70 at green level in year 08).

Or it’s genre (e.g. 1=drama, 2=thriller, 3 = non-fiction and so on.)  = G2-70 = a thriller at G level, book number 70.

You may wish to identify CDs for a book with it’s companion book  e.g. G70 goes with G-70-CD

You can create a system depending on your program’s needs, of course.

Organizing a book borrowing system

There are several ways to do this from a very free system, to a very carefully controlled one. An example of a very free system is to allow learners to borrow readers from a public place whenever they like, and return them after they have finished with them. However, honesty systems tend to lead to a lot of ‘lost’ readers.

A more controllable system, and the one that is most widely used, is to have learners borrow and return readers only at the same time each week.  There are two ways to do this.

In example 1 below, the teacher prepares a list including each learner in the class. Each learner records the code for the reader they borrow each week against their name and date. The teacher can then check that the reader was returned. The advantage of this system is that you can see which reader each learner is reading.

Example 1:

In Example 1 above, if today is June 7th, Ko, Hui-chia has returned all her readers, but Miguel still has the reader from May 23rd, and Antonio was absent last week.

Alternatively, in Example 2 – below –  a separate sheet for each learner allows the teacher to keep a portfolio. A column is added for learners to write a quick report about the reader.

Example 2: