At the 4th Extensive Reading World Congress, which was held at Toyo Gakuin University last weekend Gregory Strong, Joseph Dias, Gamal Mohamed, Milton Miltiadous, and BJ Butler presented their observations using the extensive reading app Xreading with students. This was an action research project with a quasi-experimental design. We spoke about how students engaged with the software, what the challenges and surprises were to us as teachers, and what advice we would give to other teachers who may use the app in the future.
A final panel of speakers represented countries that don’t have a “reading culture” — that is, reading is not part of the daily practice of most people in these societies (including Thailand, Mexico, Indonesia, and Vietnam, among others). They spoke of their efforts, against all odds, to introduce the habit of reading among children through extensive reading programs. One teacher from the state of Sinoloa in Mexico considered it life or death for the next generation, because reading can show kids that there are other things that can be admired other than drug kingpins.
We can’t be complacent in thinking that cultures where reading is still considered important will always be that way. A plenary speaker at the conference from Singapore, Loh Chin Ee, spoke about how, at a school she visited in her country, the principal would sit on a chair in front of all the students reading a book as the students read their books silently in weekly reading assemblies. Reading really does have to be cultivated so we don’t have to suffer through future leaders who won’t have become better people through reading.