Making extensive reading projects work


There are a number of core principles that underpin extensive reading and successful reading projects. Here are the four that we believe are most important.

First, it's all about encourgaing learners to read for pleasure and the most important principle is that teachers, heads - in fact everyone working on the staff of an institution - should model the reading behaviour they want their students to emulate.

Students and books

Teachers often complain they have no time to read. If this is the case, how can we expect students to give up any leisure time to do so? The single most important factor in the success of reading projects is the enthusiasm of school staff, who should act as role models and an inspiration to their students. So, talk about your own reading and ask students about theirs.

Second, free choice for learners is vital. Teachers should guide students as to what level might be suitable to their abilities, remembering that the reading should be relatively easy for them. They can also help them regarding what might interest them in terms of content but they shouldn't insist on their reading specific articles or stories unless they would be too difficult for them.

This of course means that a wide range of reading materials at appropriate levels is essential and it is also much easier for teachers to facilitate choice if the range of titles on offer can be easily browsed and discussed as a group.

Third, students who do not complete extensive reading tasks should not be punished. Although teachers might find it useful to monitor students' reading and to publicise improvement in grades in English as a result of their reading extensively. In other words, rewards are the order of the day for achievement, not punishment for those who do not participate.

Finally, it is important to remember that extensive reading involves students taking responsibility for their own learning and, we hope, enjoying it. The more pleasure we get from something, the more likely we are to continue with it. The teacher's emphasis must always be on the fun we can get from improving our language skills.