Graded readers in language learning: the benefits and ways of using them

(Reading time: 2 - 3 minutes)

Extensive reading is of primary importance in language development. Graded readers make reading accessible to more learners. Teachers notice great improvement overall when they use class readers and report that reading helps learners extend vocabulary in the most natural way.

Getting everyone to read, however, is not easy. Teachers should focus on encouraging and motivating people by providing choice, support, enjoyable and useful classroom activities around reading and graded readers. There’s probably a fine line between encouraging and nagging but reluctant readers can come to find reading graded readers useful and enjoyable. People who may not have read much in their first language, find that the first book they finish is a graded reader and those who get into borrowing readers regularly are often thrilled to be reading again.

Not all books are of interest to our students. Some enjoy ghost stories; others enjoy detective stories or interactive fiction where you choose your own ending. Many FLS have a selection of readers – a book box or a library shelf or two. Building a collection of books is an investment. Students can be involved in choosing which books to buy from a brochure or online publisher catalogue. If there is no funding available, students could agree to buy one or two books each and swap them or they could pay a small fee each time to replenish stocks.

The internet is an unlimited reading resource. Books are increasingly available free online, including graded readers. There are also library sites and sites such as Project Guttenberg.

So we can encourage and provide choice, but not all students will be motivated to read on their own. Time in class can usefully be spent using graded readers to encourage extensive reading for pleasure and for language development. Many activities can be suggested.
• Students can make a personal list of vocabulary and then share with a partner, each explaining items that weren’t problems for them. Then change partners a few times, ending up with a common list of new vocabulary.
• An information gap activity: each student reads one chapter and then tells others about it.
• Ask all students to choose a book, read chapter one in class and then tell each other whether it’s good or not.
• Use short texts for pre-reading activities; for longer texts students read at home.
• Students read at home and come back to class with 3-4 new words to share and recycle as a class.
• Read a chapter and predict what will happen. Invent the story as a class.
• Use class readers as a springboard for discussion and writing.
• Students write a profile of their favourite character and why they like them.
• Role play scenes from books.
• Students write a review of a book.
• Students draw a character from a book before watching the film version.
• Students compare the book and the film.
• More advanced students compare the simplified version of a book to the original.
• Students suggest a continuation or a sequel to a story.
• Stop reading at a crucial point and offer a character advice, “If I were him, I’d… “
• Students each write a question about the book and then have a class quiz using all of their questions.
• Graded readers can be given to learners who have finished an activity before others.
• Start a reading circle. Once a fortnight, learners can talk about and review what they’ve read.
• Hold informal book club sessions.



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