Not Just Reading, Pleasure Reading

“I do not promote reading to my students because it is good for them or because it is required for school success. I advocate reading because it is enjoyable and enriching.” – Donalyn Miller, The Bookwhisperer


Everyone knows it is “good for you” to read…or join a debate team… or go to college…but these things feel overwhelmingly lofty for less traditionally academic children.  The rich get richer and poor get poorer when students consider reading for the sake of external achievements (Stanovich).

The solution is pleasure reading, also known as Free Voluntary Reading.  Reading because it is pleasurable -not just because it will get you a better grade, job, or social status- appeals to all learners. Those who have failed to make the grade before, struggling readers, benefit most from pleasure reading (Mason, 1997).  Non-English major university students, presumably less likely to read in English to promote future careers, make much higher gains with Free Voluntary Reading (Mason, 2007).

Programs like Accelerated Reader that use external rewards make it likely that students will quit reading after the rewards end (Krashen 2011, 49).  Pleasure reading shows gains on tests of reading comprehension (Krashen, 2011; Mason 2004; Yamashita).  Pleasure reading lures in all children: those who know they will be president someday and those who think they’ll drop out next year.

Mason, B. & Krashen, S. (1997). Can Extensive Reading Help Unmotivated Students of EFL Improve? International Journal of Applied Linguistics.  Retrieved from:

Mason, B. (2004). The effect of adding supplementary writing to an extensive reading program.  The International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching (IJFLT), 2(2): 12-15.

Mason, B.  (2007). The Efficiency of Self-Selected Reading and Hearing Stories on Adult Second Language Acquisition s, more efficient.  “Selected Papers from the sixteenth international symposium on English Teaching.” English Teachers’ Association / ROC, Taipei: 630-633.  Accessed at:

Krashen, S. (2004).  The Power of Reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, and Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited (2nd edn.).

Krashen, S. D. (2011). Free voluntary reading. Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

Stanovich, Keith E. (1986).”Matthew Effects in Reading: Some Consequences of Individual Differences in the Acquisition of Literacy.” Reading Research Quarterly, 21(4): 120-125.

Yamashita, S. (October 2013). Effects of extensive reading on reading attitudes in a foreign language. Reading in a Foreign Language.  25(2): 248–263


Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

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