Reading in a Foreign Language
Volume 16, Number 1, April 2004
ISSN 1539-0578

Extensive reading in Japanese1

Claire Ikumi Hitosugi
Richard R. Day

University of Hawai`i


This article discusses how we incorporated an extensive reading (ER) program into a second semester Japanese course at the University of Hawai`i using Japanese children's literature. After summarizing the ten principles of ER, we describe how we addressed six critical issues faced while introducing ER into the course. We also discuss the outcomes of this ten-week program, which showed that the students improved their scores according to a traditional measure of reading comprehension. We also found positive results in an affective questionnaire that measured attitudes toward and motivation for learning Japanese.
keywords: teaching Japanese, extensive reading, teaching reading, curriculum


There has been a great deal of interest in extensive reading (ER) over the past decade. There are numerous reports of ER with students learning English in both foreign and second language settings and of the benefits of reading extensively in English (e.g., Bell, 2001; Camiciottoli, 2001; Elley and Mangubhai, 1983; Mason and Krashen, 1997; Nash and Yuan, 1992; Renandya, Rajan, and Jacobs, 1999; Tsang, 1996; Tse, 1996; and Walker, 1997). There have been a few reports of ER programs in Spanish (e.g., Rodrigo, 1995). There is one report (Leung, 2002) of a learner using ER on her own in learning Japanese. There are no reports, to our knowledge, of ER and Asian languages in formal classroom settings.

We seek to broaden the scope of ER literature by reporting on our use of ER in an Asian language course. Specifically, we discuss how we used ER in a first year, second semester Japanese class (Jpn 102) at the University of Hawai`i in Spring 2000. Our aim is to provide information about incorporating ER into a low-level foreign language course; we hope it will be of interest and benefit to others who might want to use ER with other less widely taught foreign languages.

We begin with a brief outline of the nature of ER. Next, we describe Jpn 102, and then discuss six key issues that we had to address as we sought to incorporate ER into this course. This is followed by a discussion of the outcomes of the program.

The nature of ER

In an ER approach, students read large quantities of books and other material that are well within their linguistic competence. Students select which books they are interested in reading, and read at their own speed. Student self-selection gives this approach a great deal of flexibility, which caters to the different needs and interests of individual students and allows them to develop their foreign language (FL) competence at their own pace. Day and Bamford (2002: 137-140) provide the following ten principles of an ER program:

1. The reading material is easy. The benefits of ER come from students reading a great deal. So we have to get our students reading. One way to get them to read a lot is to make sure that they read material that contains vocabulary and grammar well within their linguistic competence. When students find no more than one or two difficult words on a page, then the text is appropriately easy; it is well within their reading comfort zone.

In addition, reading easy material helps the affective dimension of learning to read. Students discover that they can read FL material, and as they read more and more books, they see themselves as readers in the target language.

2. There must be a wide variety of reading material on a large range of topics. Having variety allows students to find material they want to read, regardless of their interests. Different kinds of reading material also encourages a flexible approach to reading. Students learn to read in different ways (e.g., skimming, scanning, more careful reading) and for different reasons (e.g., entertainment, information, passing the time).

3. Students choose what they want to read. Self-selection of reading material is the key to ER. Students are free to stop reading material that is boring, too easy, or too difficult.

4. Learners read as much as possible. As noted in Principle 1, the more our students read, the greater the benefits.

5. The purpose of reading is usually related to pleasure, information, and general understanding. Students are encouraged to read for a variety of real-world reading purposes, from entertainment to finding specific information. Also in common with real-world reading, 100% comprehension is not usually the goal. Only sufficient understanding to achieve one's purpose is required.

6. Reading is its own reward. Because the goal is for students to experience reading, they are not required to demonstrate their understanding by answering comprehension questions. However, teachers may need to ask students to engage in follow-up activities after reading for a number of reasons: 1) to discover what the student understood and experienced from reading; 2) to keep track of what students read; 3) to monitor the student's attitude toward reading; and 4) to link reading with other aspects of the curriculum.

7. Reading speed is usually faster rather than slower. Because students read material that they can easily understand, they begin to read faster. Over time, they move from word-by-word decoding to fluent reading. Students are advised against using dictionaries as it interrupts the reading process, making fluent reading impossible. When encountering unknown vocabulary items, students are advised to either ignore the word or guess the meaning.

8. Reading is individual and silent. Students read at their own pace. Most ER is done outside class, as homework, on the students' own time, when and where the students choose. This encourages and allows students to read silently.

9. Teachers orient and guide their students. Students may not be accustomed to the freedom of making choices in school, so they need to be introduced to the practice of ER. The teacher could begin by explaining the benefits of ER -- that it leads to gains in vocabulary knowledge as well as reading, writing, and oral fluency. The choice of easy materials, self-selection and reading for overall understanding could be discussed. Teachers may also wish to point out that there are no tests or comprehension questions.

In order to guide them during the course to ensure they get the most out of an ER experience, teachers need to keep track of what and how much their students read, and the students' reactions to what was read. Teachers also need to encourage students to expand their reading comfort zones; as they read, they can begin to read books that were previously too difficult for them.

10. The teacher is a role model of a reader. Example is the most powerful instructor. If the teacher reads the same material that the students read, and talks to them about it, this gives the students a model of what it is to be a reader and also makes it possible for the teacher to recommend reading material to individual students. In this way, the teacher and students form an informal reading community, experiencing together the value and pleasure that may be derived from the written word.

Japanese 102

We decided to use ER in Jpn 102, a first year, second semester course in Japanese at the University of Hawai`i. Students taking Jpn 102 have either successfully completed one of the two first semester courses, Jpn 100 (for students with some language background) or Jpn 101 (for students with little to no language background), or have been placed into Jpn 102 as a result of a Japanese placement examination. There are usually 12 to 15 sections of Jpn 102 each semester, with approximately 15 students per section. The focus of the course is on the four skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing. Each section met five times a week for 16 weeks. All students in Jpn 102 use the same text, study the same materials, and take the same midterm and final examinations at the same times. However, the teachers of each section of Jpn 102 are allowed to determine how they cover the materials. In addition, 30% of a student's final grade is left to the instructor's discretion.

We decided to use ER in Jpn 102 for several reasons. First, we believed that Jpn 101 provided students with sufficient knowledge of hiragana and katakana, the syllabic writing systems of Japanese, to allow them to read easy Japanese books written for Japanese children at the beginning stages of reading which use hiragana. We also believed that students beginning their second semester of Japanese had sufficient knowledge of Japanese to read such material.

We incorporated ER in a section of Jpn 102 in which 14 students were enrolled. The first author of this report was the instructor; the second author was the leading collaborator and the mentor for the ER component of the course.

Implementing ER in Jpn 102

Because there are multiple sections of Jpn 102, and all sections follow the same syllabus, introducing ER into only one section had to be as an additional component; it could not be done at the expense of other aspects of the course.

As the beginning of the semester approached, we discovered that, for a variety of reasons (e.g., purchasing and cataloging books), it would be impossible to include ER in the entire 16-week semester. We found that we could only have the students engage in ER for 10 weeks.

In deciding how to add ER to Jpn 102, we had to address six key issues:

  1. What would the students read?
  2. Would the reading be required, with credit awarded, or would students simply be encouraged to read on an optional basis for the benefits it would have on their language learning?
  3. How much reading would the students be required (or encouraged) to do?
  4. Would ER be done for homework, in class, or both?
  5. How could we incorporate the students' reading into the course?
  6. How could we measure the impact, if any, of reading extensively on the students' learning of Japanese?

We address these six issues in order.

1. What would the students read?

A major consideration was the books that the students would read. In English language teaching, there is an exceptionally large quantity of language learner literature -- books that are especially written for students learning English as a foreign language. Unfortunately, there is no such language learner literature for students learning Japanese as a foreign language. As a result, we decided to have the students read books that were written for children learning to read Japanese as their first language (L1). While this literature might be linguistically more appropriate than other readily available materials, it is not at the appropriate cognitive level for university students. We were concerned that the Jpn 102 students would find them too childish and would be insulted by having to read them.

We decided to deal with the issue directly. On the day that we introduced ER, we followed the advice given in Day and Bamford (1998) to provide students with a comprehensive introduction. In our introduction, we explained ER to the class. We stressed that, while most of the reading material was originally written for Japanese children learning to read, we did not think that they were children. We explained that Japanese children's literature, though not ideal, was the only material available for the beginning stages of reading development that we could collect. We also went over the benefits of ER and explained how an ER program works (e.g., students choose what to read).

We collected 266 books, both new and used. We purchased some and received others from a variety of donors. Since these books were originally written for Japanese children learning to read, there was no obvious way of discerning how easy or difficult they might be for beginning second language (L2) readers. This is rather different from language learner literature in English, which has a series of levels (or grades) generally based on vocabulary (first 300 words, and so on). We believed that it would be helpful for our students to have an indication of the difficulty of the books in the ER library. We decided to establish six levels, with Level 1 being the easiest and Level 6 being the hardest. Determining the six levels was challenging.

We established the criteria listed in Table 1 with the proficiency guidelines of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) in mind. Those proficiency guidelines presume that the learner at the lowest scale of proficiency operates on the word level, moves to sentence level proficiency, then to the paragraph level, and later to the discourse level, as the learner gains more control over the language. In addition, the types of orthography utilized in the texts were considered. For Level 1 and 2 books, we decided students should be able to read without knowing how to read kanji, the Japanese writing system that uses characters of Chinese origin. All books should have either no kanji or only kanji which have furigana (glosses indicating reading pronunciations). At the higher levels, the books have fewer furigana.

Table 1: Criteria for book levels

Level 1: Hiragana and katakana only. The text is very short, and has one-word sentences, phrases, and some complete sentences. There are plenty of visual aids to help convey meaning. Japanese native readers would be three to six years old.

Level 2: Mainly hiragana and katakana text. If there are kanji, furigana is given for each kanji. The text is longer but still contains a lot of pictures to aid student comprehension. Japanese native readers would be five to eight years old.

Level 3: Kana and kanji are mixed, but the book is mainly written in hiragana. Furigana is provided for any kanji in the text. The content is not only fiction, but may also contain facts or accounts of some natural phenomena. Pictures are the main feature of the book. Japanese native readers would be six to ten years old.

Level 4: Full texts with kanji and kana. Most kanji have furigana. The content is much richer and the length of a story could go over several volumes, but ample pictures help the readers. Most film comics are at this level. Japanese native readers would be eight to twelve years old.

Level 5: Beginning at this level, material is quantitatively and qualitatively different from the lower levels. Level 5 books usually have more than 100 pages and fewer illustrations. Some kanji have furigana, but not all of them. Stories are fully developed and more detailed. Japanese native readers would be ten to thirteen years old.

Level 6: Easy unabridged books for adolescent native readers from twelve to fifteen years old. These books still include furigana; and there are few pictures. The content is more complex. Some specialized vocabulary items appear.

(Hitosugi, 2000)

Another criterion was the length of books. The longer the book, the higher the level, even if the complexity of the text was the same as shorter texts. Since all books collected were books for Japanese children, we did not have much control over the content, i.e., range of vocabulary, complexity of grammar, and style. We were aware that the vocabulary and writing styles often used in children's literature differ from what students were familiar with in the classroom; we expected that the illustrations in the books would aid their comprehension. We encouraged the students to read for general meaning, and to be comfortable with a certain level of ambiguity; we instructed them to guess meanings or ignore unknown words or passages.

After having established the criteria for the six reading levels, our next task was to catagorize the books into the levels. We color-coded the books by levels so that students could easily select books that matched their linguistic abilities (Yamanaka, 2004). Table 2 displays the results of this categorization.

Table 2: Books categorized by level
Level Number of Books
1 red 39
2 blue 76
3 yellow 50
4 pink 87
5 orange 11
6 green 3

In addition to check-out and return slips that we pasted on the inside back cover of the books, we pasted a Reaction Report in Japanese that we developed based on Day (2004). Students were asked to rate the books they read by using a code from one to five, with five indicating a really terrific book and one indicating a very boring book. This quick-and-easy system helped students select books.

2. Would the reading be required, with credit awarded, or would students simply be encouraged to read on an optional basis for the benefits it would have on their language learning?

We decided to make ER a required part of the course in order to demonstrate to the students the important role that ER can have in learning Japanese. We also wanted the 14 students to receive credit as part of their final grade for the ER that they would do -- reading that students in the other 11 sections would not do. We thought that for our students, who already had a lot of homework to do, credit would be an important incentive for them to actually do the reading. Serious students might be convinced of the usefulness of reading and have every intention of doing it, but busy students only have so many hours a day and are forced to prioritize their activities. We reasoned that awarding credit, the lifeblood of academic study, was the best way to ensure that the ER actually got done.

As mentioned earlier, there was flexibility in grading for Jpn 102: 30% of the students' grade was left to each teacher's discretion. We decided to assign 10% of that figure to ER, and the rest for participation, homework and pop quizzes. That is, the ER component would be worth 10% of a student's final grade.

3. How much reading would the students be required to do?

Day and Bamford (1998: 84-87) suggest that when integrating ER into an existing course, the students should be required to read a certain number of books which they label a reading target. Rather than simply telling students to read as many books as possible, we gave students both a weekly target and an overall target for the semester so that the students had something concrete to work for. As seen in Table 3, we decided that the reading target for the full 10% would be 40 books for the ten-week period, with a weekly target of four books. While we thought that these reading targets were challenging, we felt they were achievable since most of the books were short. Students who read 40 books during the ten-week period were given the maximum 10% toward their final grade. Those who read 30-39 books received 7.5%; 20-29, 5%; and 2.5% for fewer than 20 books.

In order to encourage students to continue reading once they had read 40 books, we set up a bonus scheme. We awarded an additional 5% for reading an additional 20 books. This was broken down into units of four books; that is, 1% was given for four additional books. This information is summarized in Table 3.

Table 3: Reading targets and credit for final grade
Books Read Credit for Final Grade
41-60 1% bonus for every 4 books
40 10%
30-39 7.5%
20-29 5%
19 or fewer 2.5%

4. Would the ER be done for homework, in class, or both?

We had to make sure that the students kept up with the students in the other 11 sections of Japanese 102. ER had to be in addition to all else in the course, so we decided to have the students do their ER as part of their homework.

5. How could we incorporate the students' reading into the course?

We believed that it was imperative to link the reading that the students were doing outside of the classroom with their formal learning of Japanese. Accordingly, we decided to use a small portion of class time, approximately 30 minutes once a week, to create a positive classroom environment that supported and encouraged the students' outside reading and promoted their learning of Japanese.

This was achieved by having the students do a variety of ER activities from Bamford and Day (2004). The activities, based on the reading that the students had done, were aimed primarily at helping the students develop oral fluency in Japanese. Some of the activities (such as promoting their favorite books, acting out the story, and creating sentences using vocabulary from the story) were done in the classroom during those 30 minutes; other activities were assigned as homework beforehand with students bringing the results into the classroom to share with other learners. At the end of the semester, the students reported that they looked forward to the 30-minute periods in which they shared their reading experiences and did a variety of language learning activities based on what they had read.

For the students, classroom activities validated their ER, sending the message that it was an integral part of the course. We saw the activities as a means of using the students' ER to promote the aims of the language course as a whole. The activities also linked individual students and their private acts of reading, which strengthened the class as a language-learning community. And there was another unexpected benefit of taking time in class for ER activities: it served as an incentive for the students to do the outside reading. Students who had not done the reading felt left out as they could only do the activities if they had read something.

6. How could we measure the impact, if any, of reading extensively on the students' learning of Japanese?

In order to determine the impact of our ER program on the reading ability of Jpn 102 students, we designed and developed a three-part measure of the students' Japanese reading ability from the pool of exams used in previous semesters (see Appendix A). Part A, the easiest, required the students to read a short memorandum and write the gist of it in English. Part B was a modified text of a brochure from a travel agency explaining the amenities of a hotel in Hawai`i. The students had to list five things in English that one could enjoy at the hotel. Part C, the most difficult, was a traditional reading comprehension activity in which students read a letter and answered five questions about the letter in English.

We were also interested in learning the extent to which ER influenced the students' motivation to learn Japanese and their attitudes toward Jpn 102. There is a substantial body of research that demonstrates that students who engage in ER become motivated to learn and acquire positive attitudes towards the L2 (see Day and Bamford, 1998: 32-38, for a summary of the research). We designed a 22-item questionnaire (see Appendix B) to measure the affective dimension of ER.

The three-part measure of the students' Japanese reading ability and the affective questionnaire were for pedagogical purposes, not to fulfill research aims. As such, they were not controlled for validity or reliability. We conducted a pilot test each measure with a different section of Jpn 102, and revised both measures as a result. The results of each measure that we report should be viewed with these limitations in mind.

We administered both the affective questionnaire and three-part measure of Japanese reading ability to students in both the ER section and in a regular class section of Jpn 102 prior to introducing the ER program in the course. During the semester, the students in the ER class read extensively for a ten-week period. The students in the regular class followed the standard curriculum. At the end of the semester, we administered both instruments again to measure gains within each class and between the two classes.

To summarize, we had to do a great many things before we could actually introduce the Jpn 102 students to ER. Even though we started the project approximately three months before the first day of classes, we were not ready at the beginning of the semester. The timing of the release of funding was also crucial in implementing this program, as we needed the funds to purchase the majority of books and set up the library. It was not until the fifth week of instruction that the students began to read extensively. As Day and Bamford (1998: 107) suggest, "With so much to do before the first class meets, it is obvious that the planning for an ER program should be done as far in advance of the beginning of the program as possible."

What we learned

The amount of reading that the 14 students accomplished was beyond our expectations. We knew that the target of 40 books in ten weeks was high, and did not expect more than one or two students to reach it. But four students read 40 or more books (see Table 4). Indeed, one student read 53 books.

Table 4: Number of books read in the ten-week period
Numberof Books Read Number of Students
Course Grade Received
53 1 A
42 1 A
40 2 A, B
39 1 A
34 2 A, A
30 1 A
28 1 B
24 1 A
22 1 C
21 1 B
20 1 B
16 1 B

The project appealed more to some than others. Five students read fewer than 25 books. The student who read 16 books was a non-traditional student in his 40's with a family and a full time job. He said that he did not really like the project. The student who read 24 books was a good student but, like the student just discussed, did not enjoy the project. The student who reported having read 22 books was an erratic student and missed class frequently. The student who read 28 is an unusual case. Though she did not read the targeted 40 books, the 24 books she read were level 2 or higher.

There were a number of unexpected consequences of the program. For example, the student who read 53 books told us that she had had little in common with her Japanese-speaking grandmother, who had limited English ability. However, this changed dramatically when the grandmother noticed her reading Japanese children books. They began to read books together. The student said that she developed a much closer relationship with her grandmother as they continued to read together and discuss the books.

Another example concerns one of the students who read 40 books. He was initially perceived by the instructor as a marginal student. But after the introduction of ER, he blossomed. His attitude changed and he became more active in participating in regular class activities and appeared more confident and comfortable in class.

While only four students achieved the target of 40 books, it is important to bear in mind that the students were only in their second semester of Japanese instruction at the University of Hawai`i.2 Further, all reported that they had never read Japanese books on their own for enjoyment or information prior to this program. Thus, as we see in Table 5, the total number of books that the 14 students read during the ten-week period, 443, is an impressive achievement. This averages to approximately 32 books per student.

Table 5: Total number of books read and average per student
Total number of books read Average number per student (n=14)
443 31.6

Based on research (e.g., Cho and Krashen, 1994; Hafiz and Tudor, 1989; Lai, 1993a, 1993b; and Robb and Susser, 1989), we expected that the ER class of Jpn 102 would make progress in reading; we expected that their gains in reading would be greater than the gains of the regular class that followed the standard curriculum.

Because of the small sample size (N=14 in the ER class; N=10 in the regular class),3 the statistics that we report must be viewed as indicative, and not as conclusive. It is important to bear in mind that the purpose of administering the two measures was for the enrichment of learning and the evaluation of the ER program, not intended to be research per se. Table 6 shows the results of the 3-part reading test for the first administration, before ER was introduced, and the second administration, at the end of the ten-week ER program, for both classes. Both classes gained in Part A, and stayed about the same in Part B. The major difference between the two classes was found in Part C, the traditional reading comprehension activity. Part C was taken from one of Jpn 201 final exams and is considered to be the most difficult section of the three parts. The students in the regular class did not do as well in the second administration, dropping on average 0.13 points. In contrast, as is displayed in Table 7, the students who read extensively made major gains, 0.88 on average. This is an interesting result, as the students who read extensively were not given any traditional reading comprehension questions on the books they read for the ER program.

Table 6: Means of correct responses on first and second administrations of the tests of reading ability
shem 1st Administration Means 2nd Administration Means
Class A B C Total A B C Total
Extensive Reading (n=14) 2.61 2.43 3.50 8.54 2.81 2.42 4.38 9.62
Regular (n=10) 1.95 2.55 3.40 7.90 2.41 2.59 3.27 8.27
Note: The highest possible score for each section is: A=5, B=5, C=10

Table 7: Mean average gains on the test of reading ability
Class A B C Total
Extensive Reading (n=14) 0.20 -0.01 0.88 1.08
Regular (n=10) 0.46 0.04 -0.13 0.37

The results of affective questionnaire (Appendix B) were calculated by assigning a value to each response category. The value of four was assigned to the "Strongly Agree = A" category, the value of three to "Agree = B", two to "Disagree = C" and "Strongly Disagree = D" was given the value of one. Question numbers 2, 6, 9, 11, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21, and 22 were reverse coded, as they are negative questions. Thus, the higher number in the results of the affective questionnaire indicates more positive affect on a student in the ER program.

The results of the affective questionnaire are summarized in Table 8, which displays the differences for both classes in the two administrations of the affective questionnaire. Table 9 compares gains or losses of each group over the ten weeks of the program. The results indicate that the ER students reported a greater overall increase in positive affective responses than the students who followed the regular curriculum.

There are a number of interesting findings, one of which concerns students' use of dictionaries. We encouraged the ER students not to use a dictionary to look up every unknown word that they encountered; we suggested that they try to guess the meaning from the context.

Table 8: Itemized comparison of gains (or losses) from the first to the second administrations of the 22-item affective questionnaire
ER class results
ER Class Average Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q5 Q6 Q7 Q8 Q9 Q10 Q11
1st Administration 3.21 2.36 2.79 3.07 1.79 2.57 3.86 2.93 2.71 2.79 1.57
2nd Administration 3.36 2.57 2.29 3.07 2.71 2.71 4.00 2.57 2.79 2.71 1.50
ER Class Gain or (Loss) Difference 0.14 0.21 (0.50) 0.00 0.93 0.14 0.14 (0.36) 0.07 (0.07) (0.07)

ER Class Average Q12 Q13 Q14 Q15 Q16 Q17 Q18 Q19 Q20 Q21 Q22
1st Administration 2.79 3.21 3.21 1.64 1.93 2.64 2.29 3.43 2.79 2.07 2.57
2nd Administration 2.71 3.36 3.14 1.64 2.21 2.93 2.36 3.57 2.57 2.21 2.71
ER Class Gain or (Loss) Difference (0.07) 0.14 (0.07) 0.00 0.29 0.29 0.07 0.14 (0.21) 0.14 0.14

Regular class results
Regular Class Average Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q5 Q6 Q7 Q8 Q9 Q10 Q11
1st Administration 3.36 2.09 2.45 3.36 1.91 2.45 3.91 2.45 3.00 2.73 1.73
2nd Administration 3.30 2.00 2.50 3.40 2.00 2.80 3.90 2.60 2.40 2.70 1.70
Regular Class Gain or (Loss) Difference (0.06) (0.09) 0.05 0.04 0.09 0.35 (0.01) 0.15 (0.60) (0.03) (0.03)

Regular Class Average Q12 Q13 Q14 Q15 Q16 Q17 Q18 Q19 Q20 Q21 Q22
1st Administration 2.73 2.91 2.82 1.91 2.00 2.73 2.27 3.55 2.36 2.18 2.55
2nd Administration 2.80 2.90 2.80 2.00 2.30 2.90 2.40 3.20 2.20 2.30 3.00
Regular Class Gains or (Loss) Difference 0.07 (0.01) (0.02) 0.09 0.30 0.17 0.13 (0.35) (0.16) 0.12 0.45

Table 9: Itemized comparison of gains (or losses) of the ER class with the regular class of the 22-item affective questionnaire
ER/Regular Class Comparison Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Q5 Q6 Q7 Q8 Q9 Q10 Q11
ER Class Gain or (Loss) Difference 0.14 0.21 (0.50) 0.00 0.93 0.14 0.14 (0.36) 0.07 (0.07) (0.07)
Regular Class Gain or (Loss) Difference (0.06) (0.09) 0.05 0.04 0.09 0.35 (0.01) 0.15 (0.60) (0.03) (0.03)
ER Gain or (Loss) over Regular 0.21 0.31 (0.55) (0.04) 0.84 (0.20) 0.15 (0.50) 0.67 (0.04) (0.04)

ER/Regular Class Comparison Q12 Q13 Q14 Q15 Q16 Q17 Q18 Q19 Q20 Q21 Q22 Avg.
ER Class Gain or (Loss) Difference (0.07) 0.14 (0.07) 0.00 0.29 0.29 0.07 0.14 (0.21) 0.14 0.14 0.07
Regular Class Gain or (Loss) Difference 0.07 (0.01) (0.02) 0.09 0.30 0.17 0.13 (0.35) (0.16) 0.12 0.45 0.03
ER Gain or (Loss) over Regular (0.14) 0.15 (0.05) (0.09) (0.01) 0.11 (0.06) 0.49 (0.05) 0.02 (0.31) 0.04

As can be seen from the results of the responses to Question 9, which asked about their need to use a dictionary, the ER students reported about the same in the second administration as the first administration (0.07 gain). On the other hand, the regular class reported a much higher need to use their dictionaries in the second administration (0.60 loss). This is an interesting find because the ER students were exposed to a much wider range of reading and therefore they must have encountered more unknown words than the regular students might have in a conventional class structure. The results of Question 5, I read Japanese books, comics, newspapers, etc. outside of class, support this, as the ER students reported reading various materials outside the classroom (the ER students' gain was 0.93). Thus, we believe that the ER students took our advice and, in general, tried to guess the meaning of unknown or difficult words rather than use their dictionaries. Guessing the meaning of unknown words from the context is a critical strategy in fluent reading. The results of Question 9 responses indicate that we were successful cultivating this strategy among the ER students.

Also of interest in Table 8 are the responses to Question 19, I like to watch Japanese television programs. The ER students' responses showed a gain of 0.14, while the regular students' responses dropped 0.35. One possible interpretation of these responses is that the ER students did not confine their experiences with Japanese to the classroom. This could be a result of their reading Japanese books outside of the classroom.

The comparative data in Table 9 also reveal that the ER students reported that Japanese reading was more difficult than the students in the regular class reported (Questions 3, 8, 15, and 22). While this might, at first glance, seem rather puzzling, we believe there are two possible explanations. First, the ER students read books that contained vocabulary that was not related at all to the vocabulary in their classroom lessons. In addition, they were exposed to a variety of readings that had topics beyond what the students in the regular class encountered. We learn from Questions 5 and 19 that the ER students' reading took them outside of the structured classroom lessons. As a result, we believe they learned that learning Japanese was a challenge. Nevertheless, as the results from the affective questionnaire indicate, the ER students developed more positive attitudes toward their study of Japanese than did the students in the regular class by the end of the semester.

Also of interest are the responses to question 17, which asked about reading rates. While both classes reported that their reading rates increased, the ER students' increase (0.29) was higher than that reported by the regular students (0.17). The ER students also reported that they would like to read more Japanese (Question 13) and they were enjoying Japanese class (Question 1) more than the students in the regular class.

From Table 9, we learn that the ER class gained 0.07 points per question item on the second administration of the affective questionnaire, whereas the regular class gained only 0.03 points on average. Thus, the ER class gained more than twice as much as the regular class in the affective scale over the ten-week period. This difference, while statistically not conclusive due to the small sample size, provides some support that ER might have had an impact on the students' enjoyment of Jpn 102.


We were encouraged by the results of the project to incorporate ER into a beginning Japanese course for university students. Ten weeks is a rather short period to expect significant gains in reading ability in a language -- nevertheless, the 14 students who read extensively for ten weeks in Jpn 102 read an impressive number of books and did well on a three-part measure of their reading ability. Equally important, there was an increase in positive responses on the affective questionnaire from the beginning to the end of the semester.

Also, there was the unexpected outcome of reading extensively for the student with the Japanese speaking grandmother as it provided common topics that facilitated communication between them. In addition, since the books we used were what Japanese children read, the students gained valuable cultural information. On the other hand, it may have contributed to a perception that Japanese is difficult, for the vocabulary in the books was different from what they learned in class.4

We continued to implement the ER programs in Jpn 201 and 202 in the following semesters. The feedback we gained from those students was similar to what we report here. The program appealed to some and not to others. It seems that it nurtures overall fluency in reading. In addition, the ER program triggered interest toward Japanese culture in some students, and it led to independent study in Japanese. Some became keenly aware of anime and plunged themselves into the Japanese cartoon world. There is no question that adding an ER component to Jpn 102 and the management of books once the library was established required a great deal of work. But the extra time and energy paid handsome dividends for our students, so we propose that an ER program should be an integrated part of a regular foreign language curriculum in order to enrich students' language learning.


1. This project was funded in part by a grant from the University of Hawai`i's Educational Improvement Fund.

2. Even though the students were in the second semester of instruction at the University of Hawai`i, many took Japanese courses previously, either at high school or at a local after-school Japanese language school. Nonetheless, they either started in Jpn 100 or Jpn 101, or they were placed in Jpn 102 according to the results of a placement test.

3. Ten students from the regular class took the reading tests. Eleven regular students took the first administration of the affective questionnaire, and ten took the second administration. However, one data set was not usable and was therefore not included in the data.

4. Situational Functional Japanese Vol.1 is used as the textbook for Jpn 102 at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa.


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Appendix A: Reading test

Extensive Reading/ Reading TestshemshemName:

Spring 2000

A. Read the following memo, and write the gist of the content in English. text for japanese reading test

B. You have found the following text from a travel agency. Since you were frequently asked by your Japanese friend about hotels in Hawai`i you want to see what this hotel has to offer. Read the text and answer the questions in English. text for japanese reading test

List five things that one can enjoy at this hotel. (5)






C. Read the following letter and answer the questions in English. (10) text for japanese reading test

1. How is the weather in Japan now? (1)

2. What does Kyoko ask about the Honolulu Marathon? (2)

3. When does Kyoko train now? Why? (2)

4. Why is Kyoko busy studying? Explain in detail. (3)

5. What request does Kyoko make of Kalani? And why? (2)

Appendix B: Affective questionnaire


Indicate your agreement or disagreement with each of the statements by using the letter from this scale:

Strongly Agree Agree Disagree Strongly Disagree

1. So far, I am enjoying Japanese 102.

2. I don't know many Japanese words.

3. It is easy for me to read Japanese.

4. I work hard in Japanese 102.

5. I read Japanese books, comics, newspapers, etc., outside of class.

6. I find Japanese 102 to be difficult.

7. I would like to do well in Japanese 102.

8. I have confidence in my ability to read Japanese.

9. When I read Japanese, I need to look up many words in the dictionary.

10. When I read Japanese, I am very interested in what I read.

11. I find studying Japanese boring.

12. After reading Japanese, I am very interested in what I read.

13. I would like to read more Japanese.

14. I look forward to coming to Japanese 102 class.

15. I do not enjoy reading Japanese.

16. Considering how I study Japanese, I can honestly say that I do just enough to pass.

17. I am a slow reader when I read Japanese.

18. When I read Japanese, I understand relatively little.

19. I like to watch Japanese television programs.

20. I try to speak Japanese outside of class every chance I get.

21. It is hard for me to read katakana words.

22. I feel uneasy when I see kanji.

About the Authors

Claire Ikumi Hitosugi is an Instructor of Japanese in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa. She holds an MA in ESL and an MBA from the University of Hawai`i, and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Communication and Information Sciences. Her other interests include teaching Japanese online.

Richard R. Day is a Professor in the Department of Second Language Studies, University of Hawai`i. He is the co-editor, with Julian Bamford, of Extensive Reading Activities for Teaching Language (Cambridge University Press, 2004), and a co-author of Impact Values (Longman Asia ELT, 2003). He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopa

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