How does reading help people to learn English?

14557622_mLearning to read in English is not only a vital part of learning the language, it also makes a huge contribution to writing skills, vocabulary, spelling, comprehension, fluency and general confidence.

Most classroom based reading is concerned with studying vocabulary and grammar. This focus often means learners don't read, understand, analyse or appreciate the text as a whole, how it flows and how language is used in the context of the story or article.

'Extensive reading’ is a different approach to helping learners to read in English. It involves reading a wide range of stories and articles that they will find easy to understand and it generally refers to reading done outside the classroom.


The benefits of extensive reading

Develops vocabulary as students meet words and word patterns again and again in different context
Helps to develop a better understanding of grammatical patterns
Builds reading speed and enhances ability to process language automatically
Helps develop good reading habits and a positive attitude towards reading
Helps to develop writing ability and better spelling
Develops fluency through enabling learners to ‘practice’ what they have been taught
Builds confidence










Extensive reading contrasts with intensive reading where the teacher chooses texts to illustrate new vocabulary or grammatical structures and often assesses students' performance in completing reading tasks.

The extensive reading approach is based on the principle that people become good readers through actually reading, where the focus is on meaning rather than language. The goal is the ‘immersive’, enjoyable experience that flows with little apparent effort and defines pleasurable reading. Intensive reading has more specific, narrower objectives related to mastering elements of a syllabus.

Extensive reading aims to allow learners more control over their own reading, both in terms of selection and how they want to deal with texts. This means that they should have the ability to choose an article or story themselves but then to discard it if it does not live up to their expectations.

It is important that learners read texts that they will understand with minimal effort so that their reading can flow enjoyably. This means that they should be guided to choose from readers that are at or below their reading level.

The Extensive Reading Foundation recommends that learners should know about 98% of the words they are reading because then they can read quickly with high levels of comprehension. The reduced frustration of having to look up words helps to develop an enjoyment of reading. This means they are motivated to read more, which means they benefit more and so on. It’s a virtuous circle.

AudiobookOur graded readers are extremely helpful in extensive reading projects. They are written to help language learners develop reading fluency and speed and they enable them to choose things to read that they will be able to understand whilst providing a clear path for progression.

We provide range, choice and variety at every level and have written about subjects that will appeal to older readers.

Because extensive reading is reading for pleasure, it is important that learners' efforts and achievements in this area are not graded. The rationale behind this approach to language improvement is that the more students read in English without obligation or fear of grades, the better and the faster they will progress.

We will soon be adding questions about every article and story in the Read Listen Learn library. We believe that these will benefit learners and we have provided them so that they can check their understanding. We don't intend to mark the answers and record the marks as we believe this will place unhelpful pressure on learners and may prevent them from relaxing and enjoying their reading.

Extensive research has measured and demonstrated the success of extensive reading. If you want to read more have a look at our blog and the Extensive Reading Foundation have produced a very useful guide, which is available here.


If you have any questions, please contact us