Extensive Reading in Practice

JALT 2002Conference No. 271
Nov. 23, 2002
Atsuko Takase
Baika H.S./Kansai Univ.

The Effects of Extensive Reading on Japanese High School Students

Extensive Reading enables students to "learn to read by reading" (Smith, 1985), and it is the most effective way for L2 learners to improve vocabulary and reading competence. More importantly, reluctant students grow positive affect on reading and studying English. However, many high school teachers are reluctant to employ the extensive reading strategy. Their major reasons are: (a) class time is limited, (b) students cannot read well enough to enjoy the books, and (c) there is not enough evidence of its effect (Hashimoto et al., 1997). Here are some suggestions to those teachers:
(a) If class time is limited, students can read books outside of the classroom.
(b) If students cannot read well enough to enjoy the books, they can start from picture books and easy graded readers.
(c) If there is not enough evidence of its effect, why not find one yourself?

Extensive Reading Program at Baika High School (1998-2002)


Second year students in a private girls' school in Osaka.

The number of students varies every year (40-110) depending the number of enrollment to school. Reading proficiency tests are administered at the beginning and the end of the course. Students' English levels are from high beginner to low

intermediate (see Table 1 & 2).


Graded Readers (Oxford, Longman, Heinemann, Penguin, and Cambridge: 200-1800 word levels), easy-reading books from several Japanese publishers, and children's picture books (e.g., Curious George)

Until 2000, books were kept in each classroom, because they belonged to the English department. Now all the books are kept in the school library, and approximately 100-150 books are purchased every year.


The duration of Extensive Reading Course is one year. It is carried out in English II (English Reading) class. Class meets twice a week. Students read books mainly outside of the class, but in-class reading is also employed whenever possible. Students are required to fill in the book reading record and write a short summary or impression of the book. In-class activity includes speed reading practice and some other reading skill practices. Questionnaires are administered at the beginning and the end of the course in order to examine their changes in motivation. Interviews are also carried out.


Gains in reading proficiency, gains in affect and self-confidence.

The following are some of the opinions elicited in the interviews with participants.

How did their motivation change?

All the participants from 1999 to 2001 were divided into three groups based on the amount of reading they did during the course, approximately 11months including the summer and winter vacations. Tables 3 and 4, Figures 1 and 2 show the group difference in reading amount and gains in reading proficiency. The middle group gained a great sense of achievement (e.g., I am reading to be more knowledgeable.) and attitude toward extensive reading (e.g., I want to become a better reader.).

Figure 1

Figure 2