An Extensive Reading Project in Higher Education: a Preliminary Case Study with undergraduates at the University of Trás-os-Montes and Alto Douro, Portugal

Portugal, ID LLCE2015-202

In Portugal, as in many other countries, in higher education, reading in a Foreign Language is usually compulsory and intensive. Short texts are read at home or in class for discussion and/ or analysis and reading comprehension tasks are produced and worked on to check understanding. Fostered by textbooks and hampered by the limited timetable, teachers render it more useful than extensive reading. Yet, there are those who defend that intensive reading in a lesson will not be a reading lesson but a language lesson because it “implies close study of short passages, including syntactic, semantic, and lexical analyses and translation into the L1 to study meaning (Susser and Robb, 1990).”

These researchers believe that extensive reading is essential for development of a student’s language skills. Their ideas are upheld by Day and Bamford (1998) who state that SL/FL learners “must read and read some more both to learn words from context through multiple encounters and to become better readers so that incidental vocabulary learning becomes easier.” These scholars argue that teachers should provide students with easy, varied and interesting material and the opportunity for reading to take place. Harmer (2001) states that implementing an extensive reading programme will promote students’ “language development, (…) make students more positive about reading, improve their overall comprehension skills and give them a wider passive and active vocabulary”. Moreover, extensive reading is the best manner to promote readers’ automaticity (ibidem).

Bearing in mind all these factors and in an attempt to boost students’ EFL skills, an extensive reading project, in English, was set in motion at UTAD. The aim of this presentation is:

  • to show how the project is being carried out and what results were expected
  • to provide some insight into the findings
  • and to reveal some of the students’ feedback.

Keywords: English as a Foreign Language; reading comprehension; extensive reading; intensive reading