Extensive Reading World Congress overwhelming success
David R. Hill, winner of the Milne Innovation Award with members of the Extensive Reading Foundation
The threat of typhoons and train cancellations didn't dampen spirits at Kyoto Sangyo University last weekend as over 400 participants from 20 countries gathered for the first Extensive Reading World Congress.
The congress, organized by the Hawaii-based Extensive Reading Foundation, included some 160 presentations (including those from featured speakers Paul Nation, Richard Day and Jeong-ryeol Kim) and two plenaries, one from David R. Hill, fellow of the University of Edinburgh, and one from William Grabe, Regents' Professor at Northern Arizona University.
Hill’s plenary entitled “Taking ER from the Edge to the Centre” attempted to address the importance of teaching languages for understanding foreign peoples, and strongly suggested ER play the central role in it. He emphatically stated that for learning a foreign language and other cultures, the primary factor for undertaking Extensive Reading should not be “pleasure” but rather a mandatory activity regardless of whether the student enjoys it or not. David Hill was also presented with the first “John Milne Award for Innovation in Extensive Reading” for his pioneering work on the Edinburgh Extensive Reading Project (EPER).
Grabe, in “Extensive Reading: Why isn’t everyone doing it?” surveyed the research on extensive reading, concluding that much research is still required in order to prove it to be a legitimate approach to language learning. He pointed out the various structural and political barriers that must be overcome in order to have the approach widely adopted.
In the final panel, Richard Day, chair of the Extensive Reading foundation called for more Japanese participation in future events whilst David R. Hill noted that a key impression of the conference for him had been the advances for extensive reading being made possible through the use of digital technology.
A standing ovation for Thomas Robb and the organizers of the congress at the end of the event capped what is rightly being called an overwhelming success by organizers and participants alike.
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“Extensive Reading” is an approach to language learning that espouses the reading of large quantities of material that is generally easier than one’s current language level in order to foster automaticity and fluency with little recourse to a dictionary.
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