Choosing Materials for Extensive Reading

When choosing material for extensive reading (see: What is Extensive Reading?), there are two main requirements:

  • The material needs to be easy enough for you to read quickly.
  • The material needs to be interesting and enjoyable for you to read.

How Hard Should the Material Be?

You should choose material that is relatively easy for you, so that you can read quickly without stopping often to look up words in a dictionary:

  • You may not understand every single word, but you should be able to follow the story or understand the main points based on words that you know and words that you can guess easily from the context. 
  • If you start reading a piece and find that you can’t follow it without relying heavily on a dictionary, you might still be able to use that material for intensive reading, but you should choose something easier for extensive reading

Pick Something Interesting

It’s also important to pick material that is interesting to you

  • There is no need to read about politics or economics if you’re really more interested in music, sports, or food. 
  • If you do really love reading about politics in English and you think you are at a high enough level to understand political news in the language you’re studying, then go ahead and give it a try.
  • If the content is interesting and engaging for you, you will learn more and be more motivated to keep reading.

If you start reading something and find that it is either too difficult or too boring, then stop and find something else to read.  You do not need to finish reading something just because you started it.  In fact, you will probably gain much more by switching to easier or more interesting material than by forcing yourself to struggle through something that is frustrating or boring.

Types of Materials

As for the type of material, there are many possibilities, such as:

  • Children’s books (picture books, easy readers, young adult novels)
  • News articles (including articles on social/cultural topics)
  • Blogs
  • Magazines (print or online)
  • Song lyrics
  • Recipes
  • Book or movie reviews
  • Short stories

Your selections will depend on what materials are available in the language you are studying, as well as your personal interests and your level in the language.  But as long as you read something that is easy and interesting for you, you should get something out of it.

Some Tips for Starting Out

When you first begin, it is helpful to start with something familiar:

  • If you decide to read a book, you can choose one that you’ve already read in English or that you’ve seen in a movie version. 
  • For an article, pick one on a topic that you know a lot about. 
  • In his book Fluent Forever, Gabriel Wyner recommends reading and listening simultaneously. You could do this by playing a video or audio clip while reading a transcript of it. This might help you to stay focused on the story or overall meaning instead of getting caught up on the occasional unfamiliar word, and it will also reinforce the sounds and rhythm of the language.