A simple guide to choosing reading texts with L2 students


The value of extensive reading lies in reading extensively, by which we mean literally reading a lot. It's easy for teachers to fall into the trap of setting texts for learners to read (when they should let them choose for themselves whilst providing guidance) and encouraging them to 'stretch themselves' by reading something challenging or difficult.

There's a lot of reasons why that is a bad idea but perhaps the most important thing is that doing so is not likely to result in students reading a lot, because they won't sufficiently understand what they're reading or enjoy doing so.

Christine Nuttall in the third edition of her 'Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language' (Macmillan, 2005) has used an acronym to describe the best means of choosing appropriate texts for L2 students and one which we have tried to follow in the editing of stories and creation of articles for Read Listen Learn.

The acronym is SAVE and it stands for:

  • S - SHORT
  • V - VARIED
  • E - EASY

When you are guiding your students towards making their own selections (choosing which of our texts you wish to study), this acronym is very useful to bear in mind.

As Christine Nuttall says, "... it is far more useful to read a lot of easy (texts) than a few difficult ones." (p. 130)