Extensive reading is an important approach to language learning that is often overlooked as a classroom activity. In today’s “English Learning Tips”, let’s take a look at what extensive reading is, its benefits, and reading activities you can try by yourself.
What is extensive reading? Extensive reading is when you:
- read enjoyable and level-appropriate materials
- develop general reading skills by reading as much as possible for longer blocks of time
- only look up unknown words when you consider it necessary to your understanding of the text
- aim at getting an overall understanding of the meaning of the text, rather than examining and studying all the unknown words and grammar
What are the benefits of extensive reading?
- It builds your reading speed and enhances your ability to process language automatically
- It helps to develop your writing ability and improve your spelling
- It helps you build vocabulary as you meet words and word patterns repetitively in different contexts
- It helps you develop a better understanding of grammatical patterns
What are the best materials for extensive reading?
- Graded Readers: books written for foreign language learners that come in different difficulty levels, sometimes a simplified version of an existing book.
- Bilingual & Interlinear Books: original English text with translation in your language included
- Authentic original English books
- Magazines & comic books
Extensive reading activities
- Skim & Scan!
- Scanning is, instead of reading the whole text, trying to find answers to specific questions as quickly as possible. You will need to try scanning with materials that come with questions.
- Skimming: pick a chapter and read only the first and last sentence of each paragraph. Write a summary of what you’ve read. Then read the text again slowly and see if there are any important details you’ve missed.
- Time yourself! Choose a chapter or a set number of pages, set a stopwatch for a fixed amount of time and try to finish before time runs out. Or read it while timing yourself to see how long it takes you to finish. Then challenge yourself by rereading it and try to finish it 10-20% faster. You can even race a fellow English learner who’s at the same level proficiency as you to see who finishes it first.
- Write after reading! Rewrite what you’ve read in your own words, how you feel about it, your preferred different ending to the story, etc.. Or write a letter to the author or one of the characters. Sometimes you need to reread some sections of the text to confirm your understanding is correct. Don’t be shy, go ahead and publish your review on a book review site such as Goodreads or LibraryThing.
- Note down unknown words and build your vocabulary! Instead of looking them up one by one in a dictionary, write down your own definition based on context and an example sentence and check you answers later. When you finish reading the book, try to write a summary that includes all of the new words you noted down.
I don’t like reading. How do I fall in love with reading?
- Choose what to read wisely. Go to topics you are passionate about;
- Create a comfortable reading area.
- Avoid other distractions in life. Get off social media and limit the time spent watching TV or movies in your first language;
- Read a book then watch its movie adaptation. It’s fun to compare the two and see which one you enjoy more. You will even end up remembering a famous quote or two!
- If you don’t like a book, don’t feel obligated to finish it. The negative feeling of forcing yourself to get to the last page will backfire.
Before you go, also check out our previously published English Learning tips articles!
Immigrant Services Calgary offers online language assessment services and referrals for clients in the Calgary area and Southern Alberta. Want to get in touch with one of our newcomer language specialists? Answer a couple of questions to help us know you better! Feel free to chat with us online if you have any questions.
Word of the Day:Adaptation: a movie, TV show or stage play that has been adapted from a book.