By Joseph Poulshock, PhD
“What?” said my friend. “Extensive reading? That’s too hard and boring. Students want to speak English — not read. Students don’t read, and they don’t like it. Reading is over and cancelled!”
Have you heard words like these? I have! But these strong words spread wrong ideas about reading. Just what is extensive reading? I call it “big, easy reading” or just “big reading” for short. And below I share the clearest picture* of big reading that you can find!
Big Reading is Not Study Reading
Let’s start with the biggest mistake. “It’s too hard and boring.” My friend thinks big reading works like study reading. Teachers call this “intensive reading.” But big reading does not work like study reading. Big reading is fun reading. It feels like play!
With study reading, you read hard texts. With hard texts, you can’t grow reading speed. You can’t easily read a lot of hard texts. And so, you can’t fill your brain with a lot of language. With study reading, all students read the same thing, which can’t match everyone’s interests and levels. With study reading, you spend more time answering questions than reading.
Big Reading is Enjoyable Reading
Big reading feels like play. You read stories at your own level. This helps you grow reading speed! You can read longer stories or many texts. You can fill your brain with a lot of language. You can choose what you read. Because of choice, you read what you like — at the right level. You don’t spend too much time answering questions. You spend more time reading for fun.
Study reading is important, and it works well with big reading. But top experts like Paul Nation say that big reading stands as the best way teachers can improve a language course. If so, big reading works as the best way learners can improve how they learn English. Why do experts push for the practice of big reading?
Big Reading Works!
Experts like big reading because it works. Big reading builds word and grammar power. When you read big, you meet language patterns again and again. And you learn these patterns in meaningful messages. You read at the right level, so you can grow reading speed. You understand and enjoy — as you learn in a natural way.
As you enjoy many stories and topics, you get other benefits. You get topics to talk about. So, big reading connects to speaking. Sites like ReadOasis play stories with sound. And many graded readers for English learners work with audio. So, big reading connects to listening, too. Big readers learn about happiness, health, and success. So, big reading works as a key — for language and lifetime learning.
Remember BEE: Big, Easy, and Enjoyable
We can paint a clear picture of big reading with the word BEE. It’s BIG, EASY, and ENJOYABLE. With big reading, learners read BIG. What is big? The more words the better! But 300,000 words stands as a key number — leading to confidence and results. After reading 300,000 words, a learner has read big!
Big reading is EASY. As a rule, learners need to know 98% of the words on every page. This helps learners understand new words without a dictionary. The 98% rule helps learners find big reading ENJOYABLE. Learners read what they like. Remember, big reading is not study reading. It works like play — that grows your language powers and makes you smarter!
*We compared this story with 10 of the top online articles that explain extensive reading. We used 6 tests to compare this story with others. And our story scored easier, simpler, and clearer on all 6 tests. Click here for more information.