I had a Polish student, Marzena, who first came to me in 2004. Her English was ‘not very good’. She had difficulty in understanding basic English – but she was enthusiastic. She didn’t have the time to come to regular classes but loved reading. She started off with low level graded readers including some of my readers, moving up the scale until (within a month) she was ready for a ‘real’ book. She enjoyed Agatha Christe, Roald Dahl and other authors – she even ploughed her way through more than 500 pages of Danielle Steele. She is now capable of reading almost anything. Interestingly, her spoken English and listening comprehension have also dramatically improved. Perhaps Marzena is just a very talented student. Perhaps I am just a very talented teacher – or perhaps reading, reading and more reading really does help language learning.
Tips for teachers wanting to encourage students to read.
* Have a wide variety of books and let the students choose want they want to read rather than making them all read the same book (unless it happens to be one of my books).
* Discourage students from using dictionaries. Many readers have a few words glossed at the bottom of the page. That should be enough. If they can’t understand the story without a dictionary then the book is too difficult for them and they should choose a less challenging title.
* Don’t make them do comprehension exercises at the end. The only question at the end of book should come from the student – “Can I have another one please?”
* Read the readers yourself and chat about them with your students. They might even think you’re human.
* I’ve written a new page to help teachers get students reading.
* For more information on extensive reading, visit the extensive reading website.