Extensive reading: the Cinderella at the ball
Jennifer Basset, Friday 10.30-11.00

Alan Maley wrote recently on the Extensive Reading Foundation website that “There seems little doubt that ER [Extensive Reading] is the single most effective way or acquiring, extending and re-cycling the foreign language. It is ironic therefore that most programmes of language instruction make little or no room for it, or deform it in some way. On the one hand we have a proven resource for promoting language learning. On the other, a passive indifference or even an active resistance to it.”
Why is this so? The reasons given are many and various: time, money, institutional inertia, pressure from syllabuses and examinations, and sometimes reluctance from teachers themselves, who feel that reading for pleasure has no place in a serious programme of study. But easy reading is not lazy reading. Repeated exposure to extended texts feeds data into the non-conscious memory system of the brain – data which will begin to turn the collection of language parts accumulated from course books and grammar books into a holistic system for creating and communicating meaning. And as learners begin to acquire automaticity in processing, this will reduce the burden on working memory as they read; their reading rate will thus increase, and their reading fluency improve.
This talk will propose three golden keys (the “rule of three” features in all the best stories) to unlock the gate to extensive reading and lead learners into a garden of delights. For a good story is more than just an extended text. It is a window to worlds, real or imagined, beyond the classroom. It is a chance to escape from task-oriented language into that uniquely personal interaction between story-teller and reader – a chance for learners to make the language their own.

Jennifer Bassett is the Series Editor of the Oxford Bookworms Library of graded readers. She has written nearly forty original and retold stories, and has recently created a new sub- series called Bookworms World Stories, which are collections of short stories written in English from around the world.