Extensive Reading, Because it Works! Extensive Reading, Because it Works!
Click to Start TimerClick "I read this story!" to stop the timer.  This is Professor Thomas Robb from Kyoto Sangyo University, and he is one... Extensive Reading, Because it Works!

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This is Professor Thomas Robb from Kyoto Sangyo University, and he is one of the world’s renowned experts on extensive graded reading. 

Q: Tell us. Why should students do extensive reading?

Dr. Robb: Why? Because it works. I’ve done it for Japanese as well.


Yeah. So I chose a mystery novel writer and I read 35 of his books.

Really? In Japanese?

In Japanese, right. And of course, one nice thing about doing extensive reading, with say the same series, is that the same characters and same vocabulary repeats. And so once you get used to it, it’s easy to read more.

Good point.

Dr. Robb: Yeah, so you can do that with English, too. Take a series, even Harry Potter where apparently the first book is fairly easy to read. But then when you get the vocabulary, it’ll be easier to read the second and the third. But basically, you want to get so when read something, you can guess what’s on the next page. So for example, if you’re reading a newspaper even in Japanese and the article is continued on page 3, you can guess what the next words are on the next page because you know the content already from your general knowledge of Japanese, if you’re a native speaker. Well, it’s the same sort of thing, if you become very familiar with the language, you can guess what’s going to be next, which speeds your reading and your understanding. And you can only do that if you get exposure, if you’ve read a lot of English.

Retro plastic TVQ: What are some of the things that your students have said about extensive reading in response to it? How they liked it? How they’ve experienced it?

Well, actually a lot of them say they didn’t like it. But they say, “I’m glad I did it.” Okay.

Right. So the discipline paid off.

Yeah, it’s discipline. Of course there are some people that really do like it. When you introduce the class, you get some students who are really keen on it, and they just take off and do much more than you even thought that they could do. We had one student last year, a freshman who read 830,000 words, and the requirement was only 100,000.

That’s amazing!

Yeah, so, but if the teacher requires them to do it and that’s part of their grade, they’ll do it. And when they’re done, they look and say, “Wow, I’ve read all these books. Wow! I didn’t know I could do this.”

That’s a perfect example of the common denominator of success. Maybe the road wasn’t easy, but the result was pleasurable.

Right. That’s very true.

Thank you so much. We’ll put this up, and hopefully a lot of people will be inspired and learn something from your comments. We appreciate it!



I read this story! Honestly!

  • David

    #1 Author

    Agree with everything except the Harry Potter comment. Not panning that book or anything but totally inappropriate for extensive reading. Even native speakers I’ve assigned, find this book hard.


  • Liam

    #2 Author

    Most novels, if not all, have difficult terms. So for starters, I guess short stories will do. But I think with extensive reading, you don’t have to limit yourself. I read novels, encounter difficult words yet I proceeded to read the story without having to open the dictionary all the time. I read the story again and there and then I look up for meanings of some of the difficult words I’ve read in the story. What’s important for me is that I understand the overall flow of the story and I learned some good lessons.