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5 Golden rules to help students read English in their free time




Extensive Reading (reading whole books for information or entertainment) helps learners consolidate their English enjoyably and in a stress-free way. This is particularly important when students fall behind with their studies, for whatever reason. Free time or holidays offer an opportunity to catch up.

This blog presents five golden rules for free time reading with guidelines on encouraging young learners and teenagers to read and some suggested reading lists.

1) Make a special time for reading

Young learners like routines, so provide structure with regular reading times. Whether it’s mid-morning, after lunch, or just before bed, choose a time that suits your child. 10-15 minutes each day works well.

With very young learners:

  • Take turns reading aloud
  • Help with unknown vocabulary
  • Help set up book audio, or digital quiz activities
  • Share ideas about the book after every couple of pages/every chapter

Older students are more independent, but you can still encourage post-reading discussion, face-to-face with you, or online through a video call with a classmate.

2) Offer suitable books for age and language level

Young learners change rapidly in cognitive development and language level in a few years. Guide your child to books for his/her age and level with these recommended reading lists:

Reading list for young learners*

Oxford Read and Discover Level 1/A1: At the Beach

Oxford Read and Discover Level 2/A1: Sunny and Rainy

Oxford Read and Discover Level 3/A1: Free Time Around the World

Oxford Read and Imagine Level 3/A1: Soccer in the Street

Oxford Read and Imagine Level 4/A1-A2: Swimming with Dolphins

Classic Tales Level 1/A1: The Lazy Grasshopper

Classic Tales Level 2/A1: The Two Brothers and the Swallows

Classic Tales Level 3/A1: The Heron and the Hummingbird

Classic Tales Level 4 A1/A2: The Twelve Dancing Princesses


Reading list for teenagers*

Dominoes Quick Starter/A1: Pebbles on the Beach

Dominoes Level 1/A1/A2: Deep Trouble

Dominoes Level 1/A1/A2: Housemates

Dominoes Level 2/A2/B1: Sara Dixon, Teen Detective

Oxford Bookworms Library Starter/A1: Pirate Treasure

Oxford Bookworms Library Level 1/A1-A2: Maria’s Summer in London

Oxford Bookworms Library Level 1/A1-A2: One-Way Ticket

Oxford Bookworms Library Level 2/A2-B1: The Summer Intern

Oxford Bookworms Library Level 2/A2-B1: Oceans

Oxford Bookworms Library Level 3/B1: The Secret Garden

Oxford Bookworms Library Level 5/B2: This Rough Magic


It’s better to read four short, simple, fun books than struggle with one long book that’s too hard!

(* links are to the e-book format of the title (where an e-book is available). For all formats – e-book, print, audio pack, search for the title on the online catalogue).

For a smart way to read digital graded readers choose Oxford Reading Club – a digital library with hundreds of titles.

3) Let readers follow their interests at first when reading

Learners get motivated choosing reading books that match their interests. If your child borrows from a library, guide them like this: ‘You like detective stories, so read more of those!’ Some individuals prefer facts, some fiction. Initially, learners should select according to their preferences. This way, they will be interested in reading from the start.

When buying reading books, involve your child in the selection process:

  • Prepare a longlist of books in subject areas that interest your child and at his/her level.
  • Have your child look at the front and back covers, and inside pages, before preparing a shortlist of the most interesting books.
  • If your child must read four books over four weeks, offer a longlist of 8-12 books to reduce to four.

Including your child in choosing will catch his/her interest more than just giving books, saying, ‘I bought these for you to read.’ Getting your child’s involvement in the choice will help ensure that the books you purchase will be read.

4) Include variety in reading approaches

Young learners get bored easily and approaching reading always in the same way soon feels stale. There are many distractions already in young learners’ surroundings, namely: TV (live or streamed), extracurricular activities, computer games, chatting with friends, social media browsing.

Avoid reading boredom by encouraging different approaches, like this:

  • Have your child make predictions from the book title, cover picture, and back blurb (the teasing back cover text that gets you interested in a book).
  • Have your child make predictions by flicking through the book, ignoring the text, and looking at inside pictures, picture captions and chapter titles.
  • Have your child make predictions by listening to the beginning of the book read aloud. (Most reading books now come with mp3 audio. Alternatively, try reading the start of the book aloud in a dramatic way!).
  • Have your child make predictions about a factual book by completing the first two columns of a KWLR chart. After reading, they complete the final columns.
  • With a famous story, like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, Pinocchio, Snow White (OUP Classic Tales) have your child watch a short video of the tale on YouTube before reading. They then read the book to check if the story is the same or different.

Having your child predict before reading really encourages them to read to check their predictions.

Nowadays, many books have a digital version (for tablets and smartphones) as well as a printed paper version. If you can, sometimes use one format and sometimes the other.

Even deciding whether to read at a desk, on the sofa, on the floor, in the garden, or in bed keeps reading fresh!

5) Encourage reading in different genres

Initially letting learners read according to their interests builds a positive emotional connection with reading and good reading habits. Later, you can encourage your child to explore other genres. The books in Oxford’s Read and Discover and Read and Imagine series for young learners come in topic-linked pairs. (For example, the Read and Discover book Eyes, is partnered with the Read and Imagine book The New Glasses.) In this way, your child can move from fact to fiction or the other way and get a balance. The factual books in the Read and Discover series are in three broad subject areas: The World of Arts and Social Studies, the Natural World, and the World of Science and Technology. Over time, your child should get a balance of these. (Use the Oxford Read and Discover & Oxford Read and Imagine Genre Checklist to monitor this.)

The Dominoes Readers series for teenagers has more genres, and there are even more in the Oxford Bookworms series. Encourage your home reader to log their own reading patterns across genres by regularly completing a genre checklist. (Use this Dominoes & Bookworms Genre Checklist.)

Happy free time reading!

Take a look at the Graded Readers Catalogue for the full range of titles for young learners and teenagers:

Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that every Graded Reader is available to purchase in your country.

Bill Bowler is a founder series editor, with his wife, Sue Parminter, of Dominoes Graded Readers (OUP). He has authored many readers himself. He has also visited many countries as a teacher trainer, sharing ideas about Extensive Reading. Bill has contributed to the book Bringing Extensive Reading into the Classroom (OUP).  Two of his Dominoes adaptations (The Little Match Girl and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice) were Language Learner Literature Award Finalists and his Dominoes version of A Christmas Carol was a Language Learner Literature Award Winner. Born in London, he now lives in Spain.


  1. I usually take my students to the library and develop some activities there so that they enjoy some relaxing moments with the books.

    • We have a special Reading Corner un the classroom, where children enjoy themselves reading. They sometimes act out their favourite carácter.

  2. Why you don’t let people access to your e-books free of cost to read & Enjoy

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