Easy Picture Books versus Graded Readers:
Which is more effective for EFL high school students?

Atsuko Takase, Friday 15.00-15.30

Among many factors which lead an extensive reading program to success, materials that learners read play one of the most important roles (Day & Bamford, 1998). This study investigated the effectiveness of picture books designed for L1 children in improving EFL high school students’ reading proficiency. In Japan extensive reading program has rapidly been gaining popularity among people of all ages for the last decade by starting reading with simple stories (SSS). The SSS method encourages learners to start reading easy picture books at the beginning of ER. By reading an abundance of easy stories, learners become able to recognize words automatically, and their reading speed increases, which enables learners to shift smoothly to higher levels of books. By completing many books students feel a sense of accomplishment and self-confidence however easy the books are. In this study, a total of 24 students participated in extensive reading for one academic year. They took SLEP (Secondary Level English Proficiency) Test at the beginning and the end of the program. Having difficulty in reading even the easiest graded readers, they were provided with an abundance of easy picture books written for L1 children. Attracted by pictures, big letters, and easy English, they read 226 picture books on the average in one year. Compared to the group of students from the former year, who scored higher in the pre-SLEP Test and read less picture books but more graded readers of higher levels, the participants of the current study showed a greater improvement in English reading proficiency. They surpassed the former group in the post-SLEP Test scores, even though the amount of their reading was smaller. The results suggest that reading an abundance of easy picture books is more effective in improving beginner readers’ English proficiency than reading books of higher levels.

Atsuko Takase taught extensive reading to high school students for about 10 years. She currently teaches at a university in Osaka, Japan. In her classes she gives students 15 to 80 minutes of SSR depending on the class. Her research interests include extensive reading motivation, listening and shadowing.