This summer I plan to roll out a new idea for my school. Many of the junior high kids I work with asked me how to pass tests for their English ability. I told them of course to study for those tests and train using the materials available as well as getting used to the format of the tests they want to take will all help them to improve their scores. And I have been preparing a lot of things that are useful to achieve these goals. But one area where I feel they could really benefit is reading.
Japanese kids hate reading English, they absolutely loathe it. Out of the 20 or so kids in my club all of them said they hated reading English when I asked them. That surprised me because many Japanese kids love reading Japanese books. You can see kids at lunch time breaking out books, comics and the like and jumping head first into a story. So what was it about English that they hated?
why they were reading in the first place. So I asked them, "When do you read English material?" They replied, "In class of course." So I asked, "Do you like the material you study in class?" And they all said, "Nope." So I said why do you all play video games. They answered that they liked them. I said why do you read comics, and they answered because they liked them. So I said why don't you read English? One kid says, because it's too difficult. It was the "aha" moment. I told them the difference between intensive and extensive reading. We talked about the 95/5 principle, and about the 80 words per minute rule.
intensive reading is reading for studying or assignments to cover grammar or vocabulary. And extensive reading is reading for pleasure or fun. I asked the kids which was important. They said intensive reading. And I shook my head. Then they said extensive reading and I shook my head again. They finally got that both are quite important. I said without learning grammar, vocabulary and sentence patterns they can't grow their English ability. And only doing that makes it dull and uninteresting. We went on for some time about reading techniques and so on.
And then I gave each of my members a CD with some penguin readers on it with different topics and different levels. I told them to take the techniques I taught them and select a book that interests them and then read it. I also gave them a pamphlet written in Japanese that explains reading in great detail and how to be a better reader. I hope through the summer they grow to love reading in English.