Jennifer Bassett – Reading Stories to a Better English

by on 27/07/10 at 12:45 pm got an exclusive interview with Jennifer Bassett, the Series Editor of the Oxford Bookworms Library by e-mail after the 2010 ABCI conference in Rio de Janeiro – Brazil. On the interview, she shared her wonderful thoughts on the importance, effects and benefits of extensive reading for learners of a second, foreign language.

Here are her answers to three questions:

G.E.L: In which ways can stories contribute to the learning of a language?

Jennifer: In so many ways …

Reading stories in an extensive reading programme will improve reading fluency by increasing automaticity in processing, and will also improve proficiency in writing, listening, and speaking – provided that the student really is reading extensively (40 or 50 graded readers in a year).

Everybody loves a good story. Engaging with stories in a language learning programme – reading them, talking about them, listening to them, writing about them – can give students real pleasure and satisfaction. It improves students’ motivation and sense of purpose in learning the foreign language. They can have fun at the same time as learning.

Stories challenge and stimulate students. Stories offer a window to other cultures, other worlds, real or imagined, beyond the classroom. They are a chance to escape from task-oriented language into that uniquely personal interaction between story-teller and reader – a chance for learners to make the language their own.

G.E.L: Could you talk a little about your sub-series Bookworms World Stories?

Jennifer: English has become an international language, and is used on every continent, in many varieties, for all kinds of purposes. The aim of Bookworms World Stories is to bring the best of the world’s stories to the English language learner, and to celebrate the use of English for storytelling all around the world. Reading stories from all around the world can give students insights into other cultures and increase their understanding of today’s diverse and multi-cultural world.

G.E.L: What is your message to English teachers who have failed in the use of graded-readers in the EFL/ESL classroom?

Jennifer: Don’t give up! Try again. But this time begin with STORY. Use story as a hook to catch their interest. Reading is caught, not taught, so start by reading aloud to your students – just a little, maybe ten minutes at the end of a lesson, and continue in the next lesson. Reading will then become a way of accessing a good story, and not just a language learning task. Explain the benefits of extensive reading to your students, and remember Jennifer Bassett’s Three Golden Rules!

  1. Comfort … Make sure students read at or below their current competence level. No more than two or three unknown words on a page.
  2. Choice … Let students choose their own books to read. They will be more motivated to read something they have chosen themselves.
  3. Enthusiasm … Be enthusiastic about reading yourself, and be a reading role model – show by your own actions that you think reading is important and enjoyable.

Good luck!

G.E.L: Thanks Jennifer for these encouraging, inspiring words.

The Benefits of Extensive Reading according to Jennifer Bassett – Video

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Jennifer Bassett has been a teacher, teacher trainer, editor, and materials writer, and has taught in England, Greece, Spain, and Portugal. She is the Series Editor of the Oxford Bookworms Library, and has written more than twenty original and retold stories for the series, including The Phantom of the Opera, One-Way Ticket, The President’s Murderer, and William Shakespeare. Two of heradaptations, Rabbit-Proof Fence and Love Among the Haystacks, have won Language Learner Literature Awards, and three of her other titles have been finalists for the Awards. She has created a new sub-series called Bookworms World Stories, which are collections of short stories written in English from around the world. She has also written original stories for the English Today Readers andStorylines series. Jennifer is series co-adviser, with H.G. Widdowson, of the Oxford Bookworms Collection, volumes of unadapted short stories for advanced learners.

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