Promoting a Balance in Reading

Clare Alsharif

The first was learning to read as opposed to reading to learn or extensive reading versus intensive reading as explained by the Extensive Reading Foundation (2016). The main purpose of extensive reading is to develop the love of reading or reading for pleasure. The benefits of extensive reading include increases in vocabulary, reading speed and fluency. Moreover, extensive reading leads to more confidence, better writing, and improved listening and speaking (Ewert, 2012). During extensive reading, students choose their own book at a comfortable reading level in order to get a general understanding. On the other hand, intensive reading uses reading to teach new skills. Using the same teacher-selected book, students read to study, answer questions or to demonstrate accuracy of understanding. Often the text is challenging for the students and the focus is on how the words are used to deliver a message. Intensive reading is usually a much slower process than extensive reading.

According to Ewert(2012), Warning(2011) and the Extensive Reading Foundation (2016), successful readers need to experience both extensive and intensive reading. They are, in fact, presented at two sides of the same coin by Warning (2011). Extensive reading develops a student’s silent reading skills and hopefully reading becomes a habit. Intensive reading challenges students to read at a higher level and teaches them about literary devices. Seen in this prospective, one can understand how extensive reading and intensive reading complement each other. Warning (2011) went so far as to state extensive reading is essential for ELLs and a language program which does not have both aspects will hold its students back. Furthermore, there must be a balance between them.

All this leads to the question of graded readers or authentic texts. In this case, there seems to be more commonality than difference. Graded readers especially for adult ELLs are a great reading tool for mature students who have a low reading level. In fact, The Extensive Reading Foundation (2016) does not recommend authentic books for most ELLs because the vocabulary and grammar is often too difficult. Authentic texts are only recommended for ELLs who are ready to transition out of ESL.

As for reading time in class there is a mixed response. Intensive reading, in general, involves reading outside the class and then discussions during class. In some cases, it may include in class read alouds or cooperative reading. In contrast, extensive reading generally involves in class silent reading on a daily basis (Extensive Reading Foundation, 2016). However, the goal is for students to read as much as possible in or out of class (Ewert, 2012). Warning (2011) suggests starting with a daily in class reading time which is slowly switched to the students reading outside of class. Assessment can be completed through book reports, sharing circles or online book quizzes like those available on Regardless of whether the program expects reading in or out of class, it will only be effective if the students are in fact reading.

Reading is such an important skill that it is imperative teachers provide the best techniques possible to help students. The present research shows the importance of a balanced intensive and extensive reading program for well-developed reading skills. Students who read for pleasure do better on tests (Extensive Reading Foundation, 2016). Intensive and Extensive reading work together to develop that love of reading.

Ewert, D. (2012). The effects of Extensive Reading on adult reading behavior and proficiency in an intensive English program_. (2012). ‍. Extensive Reading World Congress Proceedings, 1, 141-144.
Extensive Reading Foundation, (2016). Retrieved June 13, 2016 from http://erfound
Waring, R. 2011. Extensive Reading in English Teaching. In Widodo, H. & A. Cirocki
(Eds.) Innovation and Creativity in ELT methodology. Nova Publishers: New York
Clare Alsharif is an ESL instructor at Rockford University.

Home Page
ITBE Link - Fall 2016