Extensive Reading for English Language Learners

Tea and booksA guide to extensive reading and its many benefits.

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What is extensive reading? Reading has a wide range of benefits for us. It can improve our stress levels, cardiovascular health, boost our mood, increase our memory, and even give us longer life! It’s no wonder that reading in excessive quantities can significantly kickstart language learning. Reading a lot might sound tiring, pouring over countless textbooks day in day out. But you’ll be pleased to know that we found a method that is textbook-free! Because of the recreational reading aspects, many students find this technique to be less educational and more for casual reading. In fact, this method ignores current reading levels and relies solely on the enjoyment of the student!

For years, language teachers have been using a technique called “extensive reading”. This method is the direct opposite of intensive reading. Intensive reading requires the student to spend a short portion of their reading time understanding small, complex reading passages. Extensive reading requires a long process full of topics the student wants to read. This is important, as it appeals to the curiosity of beginner-level language learners. In the simplest form, extensive reading is:

  • Easy reading material
  • Something you can read quickly over a long period of time
  • Something you find extremely interesting

How does this benefit the student? Extensive reading is a method of immersion without loading on the pressure. When students are relaxed and enjoy learning with simpler texts, they find themselves wanting to read more. In this blog, we will explore the best methods to gain a language from extensive reading. We will also include the benefits you can gain from each task. Keep reading to harness our extensive reading program!

frog hugs world


Extensive Reading: Language Learning Tips

Read a Lot

The most important thing to do in preparation for this extensive reading program is to gather plenty of reading material. Make sure you have a long list of things to reference as you go. It’s much better to go into this knowing you will be reading a lot – than being surprised by it later on. You’re going to cover a lot of ground, and you’re going to love it!

Read Often

Now that you have your reading list, make sure you get working away at it straight away. Schedule in 30 minutes every day, but don’t worry about going over that time. You want to make sure you’re putting time into this method so you can get the most out of your simpler texts!

Variety is Key

In preparation for this type of reading, extensive readers should make a list of things they want to learn about. Try and give yourself variety so you don’t get bored along the way. If you are having trouble thinking of interests, quiz yourself with topics like travel, food, culture, music, and movies and graded readers to narrow it down.

Stay Interested

It’s important for reading fluency that you stay engaged during this learning exercise, otherwise, you might fall off the wagon. If you find yourself disinterested in a particular story, don’t be afraid to put it down and move on to other engaging books. If you’re genuinely interested in what you’re learning, you’ll be able to curb procrastination and read for much longer.

Maintain Understanding

This extensive reading method requires the basics. This is not the time to pull out your dad’s copy of Hamlet. Make sure the language in the book is something you can understand. It’s even more helpful if you have a graded reader book in your native language and your second language. This way you know what the book is about, and you can put your new language into context. It also speeds up the reading comprehension process.

Don’t Test Yourself

This isn’t an educational institution. You don’t need to ace this reading exercise. If you can’t completely understand this approach to language learning, that’s okay. The goal of this is to gain vocabulary over time in a more subconscious learning environment. Keep it simple with engaging books and ask questions later.

Avoid Dictionaries

While dictionaries can be a necessary tool in language learning, they can also slow you down. Again, the goal of this exercise isn’t to completely understand everything you’re reading. It’s to build a general recognition of words and phrases so you can absorb the language naturally over time.

Embrace the Solitude

Classmates asking comprehension questions are great when you’re practising language skills like pronunciation, but this exercise requires a more solitary approach. Make sure your environment is free from distractions so you can focus. In your solitude, you can concentrate much easier on your reading speed and vocabulary acquisition.

Speed Read

If you find yourself straining over the small things, it defeats the purpose of the exercise. Set a pace for yourself before you start reading so you don’t turn this sprint into a marathon. This can be accomplished with a timer on your phone, or an alarm so you know when you’ve been reading for an hour. You might also find using a pointer or finger as a physical guide a useful tool. The key is to keep it fast, don’t linger on the speedbumps of your reading material.

Do it Yourself

Teachers are not necessary for extensive reading skills. You can start this today in the comfort of your own home. However, if you find yourself in a classroom environment, try to keep this exercise separate. This method is not meant to be guided or graded. You are in control of your reading ability and recreational reading time.

Ipad reader
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Extensive Reading: The Benefits

Extensive Reading: The Benefits


Extensive reading aims to empower the student with a balanced reading program. When you see results slowly build over blocks of time from your own efforts, your confidence will soar. Confidence is a necessary ingredient for learning because, without confidence, we are more likely to feel less improvement. This method maintains that important sense of autonomy.


Instead of intensive reading techniques like pouring over exercises and lists, students are given real dialogue. Studies have found that when words are found within the context of a story, they are much easier to remember. This extensive reading approach gives the student exposure to the same words but in different scenarios. This greatly impacts their comprehension over time.


As previously mentioned, when we read, we are exposed to the same words multiple times. With this repetition, extensive readers are much better at remembering useful vocabulary. This is especially helpful when you’re first starting to learn a language with simple texts. You may find yourself reading a book and understanding very little of it, but over time your brain will begin to form new connections.

Language Competency

When students who read extensively in another language were tested alongside students who had been intensive reading, the results were clear. Extensive reading in another language gave students a better understanding of foreign language reading as a whole. These students were able to learn much faster than those who had not.

General Knowledge

Alongside the joys of language learning, the reading ability you can learn from reading cannot be overlooked. Extensive reading is the ultimate multi-task in learning. You’re learning a new language while also taking in information from the book itself. Depending on the book, you could find yourself an expert on the subject by the time you’re finished.

Writing Skills

As they say, in order to be a good writer, you must be a good reader. This principle carries over into language learning as well. Students who take in different forms of writing and dialogue will naturally absorb those skills. Without any practice at all, without academic reading, and without any tests, you’ll be able to recall full sentences and phrases from current articles.


Once you finish one book on your list, you’ll feel more motivated to complete another. This is because you’ve demonstrated the capability to yourself that you can read a foreign book. The sense of accomplishment will only increase with every book you complete. You will soon find yourself feeling like a true book lover with a bulk of time spent unintentionally learning full, complete comprehension. Just watch the purchase of books category in your budget!


The beauty of reading in the 21st century is the ease of access. We no longer need to carry piles of books around to know basic vocabulary, we can simply take out our devices. Extensive reading can be done at any time. In fact, some of the readings on your list might not be books at all. They could be articles, blogs, or newsletters. Reading has become easier than ever to do.


The best part of extensive reading is it doesn’t require complex reading material, it can be fun with simple texts! Yes, you’re learning at the same time. But if it’s done right, it won’t feel like a chore or a task, it will feel recreational. In fact, you may find yourself blowing off your plans of watching TV outside of class time for your new, more fulfilling hobby with amusing books.

Remote Learning

You have complete freedom reading foreign languages with extensive reading. It can be done from anywhere you choose. You might find that switching up your reading spots keeps you engaged. Some people read on park benches, in their car, on their patio, it’s a truly flexible activity that you can take anywhere! With the rise of remote learning, this is an important skill to practice.

Frog reads

Frequently Asked Questions

How does extensive reading help language development?

By reading extensively, students are exposed to a large variety of vocabulary and grammar structures, which in turn helps them to develop a better understanding of the language. In addition, extensive reading helps to develop critical thinking skills, as students must be able to make inferences and draw conclusions based on the information they have read. Ultimately, extensive reading can have a positive impact on all aspects of language development.

How does intensive reading help a learner to learn a language?

Intensive reading helps the reader to notice and learn new words, and to understand the author’s message better. It also allows the reader to practice their reading fluency and improve their comprehension skills. In short, intensive reading is an effective way to learn a language.

What is the relation of reading to language learning?

Reading is an important part of language learning. When students read, they are exposed to new vocabulary and grammar. They also learn about the structure of language. In addition, reading helps students to develop their listening and speaking skills. By listening to a text being read aloud, students can learn how to pronounce new words and how to use proper intonation.

Why is extensive reading the favoured approach of many language teachers?

Many language teachers believe that extensive reading is the best way to improve language skills. Extensive reading involves reading large amounts of material, including both fiction and non-fiction. This approach has several benefits. First, it helps to develop fluency and comprehension, as students are exposed to a large amount of natural language. Second, it allows students to develop their own interests, leading to more intrinsic motivation. Finally, it provides learners with a wide range of vocabulary and grammar patterns. 

How do you teach extensive reading to students?

It is important to start with material that is not too difficult, as this will discourage students. It is also important to provide plenty of opportunities for discussion so that students can talk about what they have read and ask questions. Finally, it is helpful to give students some guidance on what to look for while they are reading, so that they can focus their attention and get the most out of the experience.

How does extensive reading help you in enhancing your fluency and speed in reading?

As you encounter new words and ideas, your brain starts to make connections between them, making it easier for you to understand and remember information. So, if you’re looking to become a faster, more fluent reader, make sure to do some extensive reading every day.

Extensive Reading With LillyPad!

What’s the one thing that makes LillyPad so special? Lilly! She is an artificially intelligent English tutor, and has people talking all over the world! Lilly makes improving your English easy. With Lilly, you can read in four different ways, and you can read just about anything you love. And learning with Lilly, well that’s what you call liberating!

For learners of all ages striving to improve their English, LillyPad combines the most scientifically studied and recommended path to achieving English fluency and proficiency with today’s most brilliant technologies!

Additionally, the platform incorporates goal-setting capabilities, essential tracking & reporting, gamification, anywhere-anytime convenience, and significant cost savings in comparison to traditional tutoring methodologies.

At LillyPad, everything we do is focused on delivering a personalized journey that is meaningful and life-changing for our members. LillyPad isn’t just the next chapter in English learning…

…it’s a whole new story!

Do you want to improve your English? Visit www.lillypad.ai.

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Bethany MacDonald

Bethany MacDonald

Bethany MacDonald has contributed articles LillyPad.ai since 2020. As their Blog Lead, she specialises in informative pieces on culture, education, and language learning

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