Review ~ Bringing Extensive Reading into the Classroom

This book outlines how to make extensive reading a practical reality for a school, its teachers and its students.
Reviewed for Teflnet by Stephen Case
Bringing Extensive Reading into the Classroom

Bringing Extensive Reading into the Classroom

Bringing Extensive Reading into the Classroom is a gentle polemic on the virtues and common sense practicalities of allowing students access to the benefits of a well-executed extensive reading program. Most of the book concerns itself with just that, how to set up and run an extensive reading program: the cost, the administration, and the pedagogical considerations. However, there are also examples of well-thought-out lesson plans and activities to engage students inside the classroom. A more fitting title might have been “Bringing Extensive Reading into the School”, but that in itself can be a challenging thing to do well. This book could certainly help avoid wasted time and money in setting up an effective library and program.

The first chapter outlines the authors’ strong belief in the advantages of extensive over intensive reading. For those teachers not sure of how “just reading” can be beneficial, this chapter lays out some convincing arguments for the adoption, in part at least, of extensive reading as a viable classroom activity. It stresses that a teacher’s role in such an extensive reading program is both to enthuse over the benefits of extensive readings and Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) in the classroom, and to orient and guide students through the levels of graded readers, all so that they gain the most benefit from a program.

If you don’t know much about how graded readers are written, how they work, or indeed what level of graded reader a student should be reading in an extensive reading program, than this book also explains these points in detail. Chapters 2 and 3 are both written by editors of graded reader series. They explain the ins and outs of how they are constructed and how they might be used most effectively.

From there the book jumps into the classroom. Chapter 4 gives many examples of how to introduce, use and discuss graded readers in the class. Most of these activities do not require prolonged SSR, but rely on the fact that students have or will read the book before or after the class. The reading blurbs activity described in the book seemed interesting, and, when trying it out in my own class, found it to be an engaging and fun activity. Many of the students borrowed the book they liked the sound of most, and a few well-written book reports were returned as a result.

Setting up a library and ways to monitor students’ reading habits is the main feature of the last half of the book. Programs from around the world are described, with many ideas given about how to run complementary activities to a physical library such as reading circles or online learning environments. It also gives a breakdown of the costs involved, which any school should seriously consider before embarking on a project like this.

If you are new to extensive reading or curious about how you could use it well in your classroom or school then this book is a good read before making up your mind about whether its for your students or not. If, on the other hand, like me, you have a library but haven’t been getting the most out of it, this may introduce some new ideas, and give you the motivation to push students to develop a healthy second language reading habit.

Reviewed by Stephen Case for November 2012

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