Moving Forward with Extensive Reading in the LINC Context

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In 2014, I posted on the TESL Ontario blog “Encourage Extensive Reading with MReader.” Since then, I have been integrating extensive reading with language learners in different contexts. I have learned a great deal using extensive reading in face-to-face situations. However, as COVID has forced us all online, the new challenge is facilitating extensive reading in a fully online mode.

In late 2021, Sepideh Alavi, a member of the Extensive Reading Foundation Board of Directors and Avenue mentor, and I started an extensive reading research project on the Avenue system. A critical part of this study is a pilot test of extensive reading with literacy-level classes. 

At this time, the Avenue extensive reading research project embodies the following characteristics:

  • using only Canadian authored content,
  • focusing on LINC literacy learners,
  • only using fully online distribution,
  • providing instant quiz feedback,
  • and using the tool.

Extensive and Intensive Reading

As teachers, we know that reading is important for everyone. It helps us to understand, learn, and grow. We use reading as a means of helping our learners discover language structures, patterns, word associations, vocabulary and real-world concepts. Most of us teach reading using the intensive reading method to involve learners reading for detail with determined tasks and specific learning goals.

Extensive reading is an alternate method that can add more contact time with the target language.  Extensive reading differs from intensive reading by:

  • giving learners the choice of reading materials,
  • setting the reading level to an easier level,
  • allowing the students to control the pace of the reading,
  • allowing the students to control the scheduling of the reading, and
  • allowing the students to control the frequency and quantity of the reading.

The result is an independent reading facet for your course with the aims of enhancing learner language acquisition and fostering a personal reading habit.

Implementing Extensive Reading

Extensive reading can be facilitated in face-to-face, blended, or fully online modes. Establishing an extensive reading feature in your course usually involves attaining permission from your SPO’s management. As extensive reading is not a common practice for Canadian LINC and ESL providers, you should prepare a case for your motivation to add extensive reading to your course. Hopefully, our research will provide you with some data points and exemplars to assist your persuasion. The following lists share our perspective on the steps to integrate extensive reading into your SPO’s or individual course’s offerings.

Setting up extensive reading at your SPO: 

  1. Determine the mode or modes of delivery 
  1. Identify sources for reading materials  
  1. Ensure that student and teacher access to technology and materials is reliable and continuous. 
  1. Trial the ER process with your technology and materials to identify possible issues. 
  1. Establish reading levels. 
  1. Facilitate a teacher/staff student orientation to the ER process. 
  1. Share feedback and FAQ resources on your LMS. 

Setting up ER on your course: 

  1. Ensure that the technology and materials source are ready by trying a few books out yourself. 
  1. Facilitate a reading placement test to establish student levels. 
  1. Facilitate a student orientation to the process. 
  1. Facilitate a complete ER book cycle with the learners to ensure their ER competence.  The teacher uses one book for this session. 
  1. Facilitate a book selection session. This may involve a visit to a learning resources centre or an online database search. 
  1. Schedule silent reading sessions to allow students to read in class time.  
  1. Oversee students’ comprehension assessments. 
  1. With the results, review different results and provide feedback and strategies for students to use ER moving forward. 
  1. Set a reasonable target for number of books per set interval. This could be per week, per month or term.  
  1. Possibly, establish a rewards system for participation in this scheme. 
  1. Allow the student to start their ER. 

Extensive Reading Benefits

Adding an extensive reading segment to your courses may help the students realize the following benefits. Extensive reading:

  • promotes a reading habit in the target language,
  • expands second language vocabulary,
  • helps learners recognize language patterns in context,
  • increases reading speed,
  • and improves L2 fluency.

Next Up

We are moving forward with our research pilot program and hope to share our finding late in 2022. As a part of our community responsibilities, we are facilitating extensive reading webinars sessions. If you are eligible, please attend one of the following or watch the archived video. 

Tutela Webinar: Introduction to Extensive Reading for Language Instructors, February 21 at 20:00 ET

TESL Niagara Conference Series:  Introduction to Online & Blended Extensive Reading, March 16 at 19:00 ET

Introduction to Extensive Reading Part 1 (Avenue webinar)

Extensive Reading Part 2 (Avenue webinar)


Extensive Reading Foundation

Encourage Extensive Reading with MReader

Hi—I'm John Allan. I am an educator who works in the technology enhanced language learning field. I create online learning opportunities and mentor instructors on the Avenue project. I have experience teaching ESL and EFL in Canada and the Middle East. I hold an MSC in Computer Assisted Language learning, a M.Ed. in Distance Education, TESL B. Ed., a B.Ed. (OCT), and a variety of TESL relevant certifications from TESL Canada, TESL Ontario and the Ontario Ministry of Education. For more articles, learning objects, projects and blog links see


4 thoughts on “Moving Forward with Extensive Reading in the LINC Context”

  1. Interesting concept and project that I had not heard about.
    Thanks. When I started teaching ESL (Nov1999) there was a huge emphasis on reading.. Every conference had readers for different levels; Penguin sold class sets (often with tapes – I still have my “Anne of Green Gables” set) and “Drop Everything and Read” was often part of teacher practice…as was Friday “Story reading”. Newspapers had “easy reader” versions and issues (in addition to “free” condensed versions like the “Metro “ free, short, simplified versions of The Star. The Star provided FREE daily class set (Really!) and guides on how to use various sections.. A favourite activity was to compare the different ways the four major newspapers (Star, Sun, Globe, National) treated similar news stories (bias, critical thinking) AND the class books had questions and tasks that reviewed and/or “tested” vocabulary retention and comprehension – but there was no artificial “artifact collection”, lol, “artefact collection”. Reading was for true language learning, for pleasure, for knowledge. There was respect for the teaching of “reading” (and for writing, true self expression.. so many of Thane Gardner and others’ offerings at conferences were LEARNER STORIES, LEARNER VOICES.) “The Ontario Reader” was a favourite resource..authentic REAL LIFE (World) readings AND questions…REAL REAL reading experiences..(starred for difficulty, *, **, ***). Sigh. The perfect storm of the Internet plus the missteps of PBLA interfered with the “Joy of Reading”…..AND the truism that “Reading is the Key” was shunted to the Styx in favour of the “task based learning” obsessive approach. I’m hoping your pilot is a success (although I was disappointed at last night’s webinar that so much emphasis seemed to be focused on the “testing” and collection of tests instead of the teaching aspect. I will follow and check out ER (my class is LINC 6/7) I’m hopeful!

  2. I am not really sure how we gave the impression that the focus of the Extensive Reading project is on the “testing” and collection of tests instead of the learning aspect. We mentioned for the love of reading, inspiring a personal reading habit and reading for pleasure multiple times during the session. As a seasoned language teachers know, any free tasks or assignments should be coupled with accountability. This is necessary in the current fully online mode that the majority of us are experiencing. Otherwise, how could you be sure that checked out books were read by students?

    After each book is read and checked in, the learners are required to attempt a simple five question multiple choice quiz. These quizzes are very general and allow us to track the progress of each student in a non-threatening manner. The Extensive Reading Foundation’s Guide provides five options for indirect assessment if quizzes are not preferred by an instructor. Please read page 9 of the guide: We mentioned a few of these in our session as well. These options can be used by Avenue instructors in the future as they will have the choice of ensuring learner extensive reading activity in the direction that they choose.

  3. Hi John, I hope I didn’t give the impression that I don’t thoroughly support, and applaud the project’s effort to enable and encourage ESL reading for language acquisition, for pleasure (“sweet spot”) AND knowledge/lesrning (instructional).

    I apologise. I came in late to the webinar and so most of what I heard was about the tests/quizzes, data collection, tracking, learner compliance, I’ll be sure to listen to the whole recording for the reading for reading’s sake part. .

    I guess what has happened to ESL with “PBLA” is the fixation on “evidence of learning” and complying with “requirements” which has turned teachers into “binder managers” (now Avenue “e-portfolio” caretakers) and learners into “artifact collectors”. I did pick up (I think) that this project is not tied in with PBLA..but the reality is that the “reader”:data collection and tracking looked like “PBLA”. to me. And Avenue’s main task now IS the facilitation of the ePortfolio. Well, time will tell.

    I am excited about the reader site (saw Anne” is there!) And you have made me think about how I haven’t included real reading for my learners for ages (most “reading” for me now (because of PBLA);has to produce an “SU” or an “artifact”. ) Mea culpa.

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