What Makes a Good Graded Reader: Engaging with Graded Readers in the Context of Extensive Reading in L2
It is widely accepted in the ESOL field that Extensive Reading is good for ESOL learners and there are many studies purporting to show that this is true. As a result, the publication of Graded Readers in English today is a major commercial concern, although David Hill (2008, p. 189), former director of the Edinburgh Project on Extensive Reading, in his most recent study of Graded Readers, comments that they are being produced 'in a hostile climate where extensive reading is little valued, practised or tested.' However, anecdotal evidence from teachers and researchers claims that learners do not read anywhere near the recommended one Graded Reader a week prescribed by Nation and Wang (1999, p. 355) to provide the necessary amount of comprehensible input for increasing vocabulary. If these claims and Hill's comments are true, there may be a mismatch between the kind of reading material produced for learners of English and the nature and teaching of the texts currently recommended by teachers and librarians. Such a situation would not only be a huge waste in terms of resources; it could also lead to the alienation of generations of English learners from a potentially valuable means of improving and enjoying language learning. My study investigates this discrepancy by looking at the perceptions of the main stakeholders in Graded Readers, namely the publishers, the judges and academics, the teachers and the learners, to see how they differ and why. As each population is different, the methodologies used in the study are various, making for an approach described as 'bricolage' (Lincoln & Guba, 2000a, p. 164). At the heart of the study are five case studies of learners, set against the backdrop of data gathered from all the stakeholders. As the results indicate that the purpose of the reading appears to govern the perceptions of the individual learner, I found Louise Rosenblatt's (Rosenblatt, 1978) Transactional Theory of Reading Response was an appropriate framework within which to interpret the data.