July 19, 2023

By Mina Karaarslan

The journey to language proficiency can be a daunting one. The key to success lies in finding the perfect program that fosters student gains in EFL reading. In this blog post, we’ll explore the significance of reading in language development and why the right program is crucial for maximising student achievements.

Build Language Proficiency with Reading

For students studying English as a second or foreign language (EFL), the challenge of finding appropriate reading materials can be overwhelming. Teachers need to ensure that the materials they choose are effective and efficient in facilitating language acquisition. Reading plays a crucial role in developing language proficiency, as it helps students build vocabulary and comprehension skills necessary for future success. In recent years, the concept of Extensive Reading (ER) has gained attention as an effective way to develop language abilities. ER focuses on providing students with ample reading opportunities at their level to build vocabulary, comprehension, and a love for reading.

Provide Comprehensible Input with the Right Books

Research shows that providing EFL students with comprehensible and meaningful input is essential for language acquisition. When students receive “comprehensible input”, which means they understand what they hear and read, they are more likely to acquire language and develop literacy skills (Krashen, 2003). Of the four language skills, reading is considered crucial for improving language ability in foreign language learners (Chiang, 2015). Reading helps students expand their vocabulary and develop a deeper understanding of the language.

Extensive vs. Intensive Reading

Historically, two major approaches have been used to develop reading skills in EFL settings: Intensive Reading and Extensive Reading (Rashidi & Piran, 2011). Intensive Reading focuses on close reading of short texts, with a focus on analysing details such as vocabulary, grammar, and author’s purpose. On the other hand, Extensive Reading aims to develop good reading habits, build vocabulary and knowledge, and foster a love for reading (Yamashita, 2013). The key features of an Extensive Reading program include reading at the right level, with comprehension, a lot, independently, and silently.

Which Students and What Books

Multiple studies have focused on implementing an ER program and have drawn two general conclusions. Firstly, ER is effective for students beyond the absolute beginner level of language proficiency. Secondly, using graded readers, which are books tailored to the learner’s language ability, is crucial in providing comprehensible input. Students need to engage with material that is just above their current language ability to facilitate language growth (Bahmani & Farvadin, 2017).

Include True Beginners, Use Authentic Digital Books

Two approaches have been historically used to develop reading skills in EFL settings: Intensive Reading and Extensive Reading. While Intensive Reading focuses on close reading and analysis of text, Extensive Reading aims at developing good reading habits and love for reading. Multiple studies have shown that the Extensive Reading approach is effective for students beyond the absolute beginner level of language proficiency, especially when using graded readers tailored to the learner’s language ability.

In two different studies conducted in different countries, students were exposed to enhanced digital books and authentic books matched to their reading level. The results showed that students made positive gains in their reading ability. The gains increased as the grade level increased, indicating desirable growth. While the gains in reading ability were statistically significant in all grades except for grade 3, the effect sizes indicated a small to medium effect overall. The difference in reading ability between the first and last week of the study was also meaningful, indicating significant progress made by students over the study period. These results demonstrate the effectiveness of Extensive Reading programs in developing language abilities in EFL students.

Read the full Research Paper written by Dr. Carol Johnson here.

All Students Gain with the Right Use of Authentic Digital Books

The findings from these studies indicate that implementing an Extensive Reading program using enhanced digital books and authentic books can significantly improve EFL students’ reading abilities. Both studies showed positive gains in students’ reading ability, with the gains increasing as grade level increased.

By focusing on building background knowledge, teaching vocabulary explicitly, and checking comprehension frequently, ELLs can improve their reading comprehension skills. Keep in mind that reading is a complex process that involves many skills and strategies, and with practice, anyone can improve their reading comprehension abilities.

The results suggest that students at different language proficiency levels can benefit from an ER program, provided that the materials are appropriately matched to their reading level. These findings highlight the importance of providing EFL students with a wide range of comprehensible input and engaging materials to facilitate their language acquisition journey.

Click here to find out how your school can utilise Renaissance reading solutions, to support your reading development strategy across the school.

Share this post