Extensive reading can be implemented to any kind of EFL class whatever the intensity, content, age of students or their language level are. The only requisite is that students already have a basic knowledge of the target language and are literate in it (Bamford and Day, ibidem).
2.2 Basic principles of extensive reading
In connection with the aspects of extensive reading noted above, there is a set of specific principles and particular issues which the teacher has to consider before starting an extensive reading.
The first and most important principle is the need of easy reading material that is 'within the linguistic competence of the students in terms of grammar and vocabulary' (Bamford and Day, 2004). There should be no more than two unknown vocabulary items per page for beginners and no more than five for intermediate learners. This is directly connected with the learner's success, because if the text contains a lot of unfamiliar language, the reader is likely to struggle with it and further reading is thus impossible.
A wide variety of reading material should be available for students to choose what they really like. This comprises graded readers, magazines written for language learners at different ability levels and children's literature. Large quantities of reading material on wide-ranging topics raise the learners' interest as they can choose the texts that suit their individuality. Different reading materials on different topics allow the learners to practice different reading skills and fulfill different purposes for reading (for pleasure or information). As Ellis and McRae (1991) state, 'the careful building up of reader familiarity with a variety of books will lead to a wider reading range, encourage individual exploration, and make extensive reading part of a student's education for life'.
The other important principle is that the learners choose their reading materials themselves. Self-selection put students in a different role from that in a traditional classroom, where the teacher chooses or the textbook supplies the reading material. It also promotes their interest in reading, especially if they know that they are allowed to stop reading the text that is not suitable for them, either in terms of interest or language level. This builds the learner's self-confidence and self-awareness as well.
Because of the fact that the reading material is easily understandable for students their reading speed is faster than during the intensive reading tasks. They are discouraged from using dictionaries as this interrupts and makes fluency impossible. Instead, learners are encountered to guess the meaning or ignore the unknown words. This helps them to develop the reading skills and positively influences fluent reading.
Students should read frequently, on regular basis and as much as possible. Bamford and Day (2004) recommend one book a week as the reading materials for beginners. Moreover, reading materials should be easy and not so long to become an overwhelming task for learners. This is the principle that is worth noticing because reading quantity of books helps to develop the language competence and extensive reading theory is based on this assumption.
In spite of intensive reading which requires detailed understanding, extensive reading encourages reading for general meaning, curiosity, information, pleasure or professional interest. The aim is not a hundred percent comprehension. That is why extensive reading is not usually followed by tests or reading comprehension exercises. There can be some after-reading activities that help a teacher to monitor students' reading. However, Bamford and Day (2004) emphasise the idea that 'any follow-up activity [should] respect the integrity of the reading experience and that is encourage rather than discourage further reading'.
Another typical feature of extensive reading is that it is silent and individual. Students read at their own pace. Sometimes silent reading periods may be reserved from class time when the extensive reading program is included into the curriculum. However, most of the reading is homework. Learners can read then outside the classroom, in their own time, when and where they choose.
The last two principles deal with the role of a teacher. 'The teacher is a role model... a reader who participates along with the students' (Maley, 2008). This is extremely important point because a teacher gives students a convincing model of what is to be a reader, for example during the class reading time the teacher should read as well. She/he should also be familiar with all the books students are reading in order to recommend proper materials to individual students. Another benefit is that the teacher and the students create together an informal reading community in the classroom by sharing their reading experiences and 'experiencing together the values and pleasure to be found in the written word' (Bamford and Day, 2004).
The role of a teacher as a reader model is not the only one. A teacher plays various roles in extensive reading. He/she explains the rules and a purpose for extensive reading, demonstrates the needed strategies and techniques for it, supports and encourages the learners towards reading, monitors the learners' reading and guides them during the extensive reading program (Hedge, 2000) (Maley, 2008).
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