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How Graded Readers and Engaging Activities Can Ignite Student Interest in the Magic of Books




If contemporary societies view reading as an essential life skill, loving to read is definitely “the” gift that makes all the difference in a person’s life.

Reading for pleasure opens doors to all sorts of worlds for us to explore.  When we are hooked on a story, we feel like we have jumped into the book’s pages to undergo an exciting reading experience. Times flies, our imagination goes riot, we are curious to know how the story unfolds, the words are full of powerful meaning and new words and expressions expand our linguistic repertoire. Likewise, when the story ends, we may even have a book hangover! Suddenly, we find it difficult to part in the company of those characters we’ve learned to love. Luckily, there is always another book around the corner, waiting for us to open it and read “Once Upon a Time…”, to make the magic happen all over again.

The powerful stories that circulate in our communities build bridges among generations, and readers develop a strong sense of belonging to their cultures and values. What is more, we remember information which comes in the form of a story because we connect with the narrative emotionally. Myths and legends are examples of how, in the past, we used to make sense of the world we lived in (Egan, 1998). Stories bring together schools and families. Just imagine parents and children reading together about the adventures of emblematic characters such as Sherlock Holmes, drawing the wall a selfish giant built around his castle, performing the gingerbread man’s traditional story or chanting Humpty Dumpty or Dr Seuss’ cat in the hat’s rhymes. As Brewster, Ellis and Girard (2002) say, stories and storytelling create the ideal learning context to undergo reading as a social experience.

Creative Reading as Classroom Practice

Let me introduce creative reading as classroom practice and show how it can be fun, engaging and memorable. We need three things: Developing reading routines, choosing appropriate graded readers and following a pre-, while- and post-reading model.

  1. Reading Routines

Reading routines such as regular storytelling, reading aloud / reading alone time and book talk moments give learners the chance to express their personal response to the reading experience (Mourao & Ellis, 2021). In this way, we create communities of readers which make reading visible in the classroom with cosy reading corners and comfy cushions, shelves with books to read for pleasure and classroom walls decorated with the learners’ creative work which show reading in the making.

  1. Graded Readers

Do not be scared to add a graded reader to your syllabus! These texts come from many different genres and teachers have a big palette to choose what topics to explore.

Graded readers are accessible to all. Their benefits are plenty. First, they are specifically produced for foreign language learners and use limited lexis and syntax according to the learners’ linguistic level. As students read to their reading ability, their motivation increases, and they develop a sense of achievement. For many students, this can be the first time they read a whole book in English! What a feeling of success, don’t you think?

Second, the graded readers’ appealing content triggers motivation. There are several abridged versions of all sorts of genres, such as folk and fairy tales, fables, traditional stories and modern classics with lively illustrations accompanying robust plots.[1] Choosing stories from around the world, for example, is a solid plan, since learners have access to world literature in their English class, learn and explore different cultures and human expression, gain global perspective and develop a broader worldview. Isn’t it fantastic?[2]

  1. Following a Pre-, While- and Post-Reading Model

Planning a lesson on a graded reader is simpler than you think. By following a pre-, while- and post-reading model which organizes the lesson around three main stages, we will integrate graded readers into our syllabuses and exploit the full potential of the stories. We will exemplify activities which intend to inspire teachers to design creative tasks to accompany the reading experience since planning appealing activities for each stage is crucial to motivating learners to develop an interest in the story.[3]

First, as a pre-reading activity, we can bring realia into the classroom and show learners 5 different objects they can touch and play with. We tell them that only one of those objects appears in the story and ask them to look at the cover of the book to guess which one belongs to the story and give reasons for their choice. For the pre-reading phase, we can use the think-pair-share (TPS) collaborative learning strategy to foster interaction[4]. In this way, we are creating expectations about the story, we have made learning concrete with real objects, and we have given learners a specific task to carry out and reasons for listening/reading. Now the learners are motivated to listen to/read the story to confirm or discard their predictions.

Reading activities foster storytelling and interactive reading moments to trigger imagination, involve the learners in the narrative and play with sound, rhythm, and rhyme. This playful interaction with English sounds and rhythm has a very positive effect on memory building and language learning. The same happens with book talk moments which bring the learners’ own imagined or real worlds into the reading and create precious opportunities for spontaneous listening and speaking in the classroom in relaxed classroom practice. Storybooks and storytelling, as a social experience, create a rich environment for learning (Brewster, Ellis and Girard, 2002).

Last, post-reading activities nurture the learners’ connection with the story and respond creatively to the reading experience. Examples of these activities are: Draw your favourite scene, design an infographic with specific information about the story, use a graphic organizer to create a story mountain to represent its structure, perform the scenes you liked the most, create a collage to introduce a character, create a story cube to retell the story, design a different book cover or book jacket, create a poster to advertise the book, write a different ending, add a new character, do freeze frames to present the different scenes.

Sometimes, just introducing a slight minimal change to traditional reading activities is enough to trigger immediate interest. For example, completing a Venn diagram with specific information about two different elements is very often used for identifying, categorizing, comparing and contrasting information. When we add movement to the activity, learners have another stimulus. If we ask students to create the activity in pairs to pass it on to other learners to complete it, the challenge, engagement and enthusiasm grow since it becomes community-based. See the following example of an activity I created based on the primary course book series Buzz, book 6 (2023, p. 25)

Beyond the Classroom Walls

Moreover, for those teachers who embrace creative reading and would like to go a step further, participating in international reading projects is a great option since these projects move beyond the classroom walls and bring together learners from faraway places. Oxford University Press, for example, carries out one such project every year: the Oxford Big Read competition[5] and provides online access to several resources, such as ready-to-use templates, genre information, rubrics to assess creative tasks and teaching tips to guide teachers to plan creative activities to work with graded readers.

Participating in global projects like Oxford Big Read offers schools the chance to show their commitment to teaching languages and gain international visibility and recognition. The whole school community participates in making these projects happen; families and teachers work together in collaborative contexts to support the learners’ efforts, involving parents in their children’s learning processes and schools in creating bonds with the learners’ homes. Most importantly, these kinds of creative reading experiences boost students’ love for reading, language learning, sharing with others and exercising agency.

Creative Reading in a Nutshell

To conclude, creative reading fosters a comprehensive language learning experience, which creates room for learners to explore and experiment with language from a very personal and creative perspective. It contributes to developing learners’ confidence in their reading process, in the learning of a foreign language, and the development of their creativity and criticality.[6]

It is about loving to read and invites readers to let themselves go, be caught by the power of the narrative, develop empathy and engage their imagination in the reading process. It aims at educating learners, who have acquired tools to become critical, creative and independent readers, aware of their citizenship responsibilities, both at their local contexts and globally. All in all, be a daring teacher and give graded readers a chance!


Griselda Beacon is an English teacher with a Master’s degree in English Literature and Foreign Language Teaching from Philipps-Universität Marburg in Germany. She has extensive experience in teacher training and curriculum development for primary school. She is the co-author of the Together textbook series (Oxford UP, 2018) for teaching English in Argentina and co-editor of the book International Perspectives on Diversity in ELT (Palgrave, 2021). She is a teacher trainer for various educational institutions, including Oxford UP in South America and NILE – Norwich Institute for Language Education in England. Passionate about children’s literature, Griselda visits schools, reads picture books, tells stories, and carries out literary projects in primary school classrooms with literature and art that promote reading and creative writing, intercultural dialogue, and inclusion in English lessons. Based in the city of Buenos Aires, Argentina, Griselda works as a higher education teacher and teaches Children’s and Young Adult Literature, Creativity, and Theater Techniques in the English teacher training program.


Bibliographical references

Brewster, J., Ellis, G. & Girard, D. (2002). The Primary English Teacher’s Guide. Pearson ED

Douglas, S. R. (2017). Extensive reading for engaging learners beyond the textbook. Blog. Oxford University Press ELT. https://teachingenglishwithoxford.oup.com/2017/07/18/extensive-reading-the-key-to-language-learning-beyond-the-classroom/

Egan, K. (1998). The Educated Mind: How Cognitive Tools Shape Our Understanding. In Canadian Journal of Education / Revue canadienne de l education. Bibliovault OAI Repository, the University of Chicago Press. 68. 10.2307/1585992.

Mahony, M. & J. Ross (2023). Buzz, book 6. Oxford University Press.

Mourão, S., & Ellis, G. (2021). Demystifying the read-aloud. English Teaching Professional, (136), 22-25. Article 7. https://www.etprofessional.com/demystifying-the-read-aloud






https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/professional-development/teachers/knowing subject/articles/making-reading-communicative

[1] See Oxford University Press selection of graded readers at https://www.oxfordreadingclub.com/

[2]https://teachingenglishwithoxford.oup.com/2017/07/18/extensive-reading-the-key-to-language-learning- beyond-the-classroom/

[3]https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/professional-development/teachers/knowing subject/articles/making-reading-communicative


[5] For more information about this global project, see https://www.oxfordbigread.com/




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