Friday, June 18th, 2010...5:23 pm

EFL Reading in Cafes

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Video:  Jez Uden on Extensive Reading and Book Clubs

Here’s how it works…

Ok, it’s really as simple as it sounds…I began by having a meeting in a cafe with a group of my EFL learners. I gave them a brochure of graded readers (Cambridge), and allowed them to discuss the different books and genres. After a lot of good chatting I was given a list of books to order.

We meet every week in a cafe in Lincoln and have a good chat about the books in a very relaxed, fun, and natural environment. There are some obvious advantages of having learners read different books as opposed to all reading the same book. Firstly they are free to choose whatever books they like, and secondly they can then recommend each other books to read as they go along!

It wasn’t long before other learners heard about the reading group, and now I have several groups of varying levels…it won’t be long before I’m charging the cafes commission!

If you are doing something similar, or interested in doing something similar please get in touch! Teachers and students can post blogs here and more and more students can start sharing their experiences of reading with each other. They can recommend books or search for recommendations for their own future reading.

I look forward to reading your comments


  •   Dirce
    July 10th, 2010 at 11:27 am    

    Hi! my name’s Dirce and I’m from East Timor. I really enjoy Jez’s book club. I think i can improve my speaking a lot by discussing what i have read in a book and share ideas and opinions with other people in the group. I have also learned a lot of vocabulary from listening to other people talking about the books.

  • What an interesting project! I imagine it must be really insightful for your students to have those meetings.
    I do my best to encourage my teenage students to read books and i’m determined no to give up.
    Marisa (@Mtranslator)

  • Great idea. Hope there isn’t an English teacher taking a break in the same cafe. I always take an MP3 just in case there’s a conversation exchange next to me…

  •   jezuden
    October 5th, 2010 at 2:11 pm    

    Thanks for your comments Marisa, and Alex. The book clubs are certainly proving popular with the students…and so far haven’t managed to upset any teachers who happen to be taking a break in the same cafes :-)

  • Hi Jez,

    It was good meeting you (briefly) at IATEFL. Thank you for directing me to this site because it looks interesting and affirming.

    I went to the presentation by Sue Parminter (sp?) facilitated by OUP and found I wasn’t out on a limb with our work on the Pressessionals in Swansea and have established contact with a similar scheme at Leicester University. However, learning of your clubs has added a further and final dimension to be worked towards within the take off and launch approach we have instigated. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Keep in contact

  •   jezuden
    April 22nd, 2011 at 1:28 pm    

    Hi Neal,

    thanks for this. Yes, it was good to meet you too. It was interesting to hear what you have going on at Swansea University regarding extensive reading. Do stay in touch and let me know how it all develops.

  •   Dru Stephenson (@Dru_Step)
    June 15th, 2011 at 9:16 pm    

    Had all the best intentions of setting up this very model for the last academic year and never managed to get it off the ground. I guess it’s not about making a whole class, but only those interested, come along for a bit of extra-curricular time. I would be interested in getting suggestions of ‘normal’ books for my Advanced lot to read. Dickens (their suggestion) has far too much fossilised language.

  •   hartle
    July 20th, 2011 at 10:14 pm    

    This sounds like a really good idea. I can’t do this with my 400+ uni students as we wouldn’t fit into the café but I was thinking of doing something similar to the traditional class library, where we look at different book covers etc. in class (a bit like your catalogues) and then the students who are interested could set up a account and curate their own collection of books or readers with their comments. Then we could have another lesson later where people try to ‘sell their books’ and they can all look at each others’ collections. This could easily get out or hand though, so I was thinking of asking them to limit it to two or three at the beginnings and then reading each others’ ideas and choosing another one or two from those. Don’t know if it will work but time will tell.

  •   jezuden
    July 20th, 2011 at 11:05 pm    

    Hi Drew, sorry for the delayed reply…I’ve been really busy working on other projects and have unfortunately been neglecting my blog.

    It’s is an interesting point you make about ‘normal’ books and advanced students. In fact for my MA research I’m looking at what happens after the Cambridge level 6 stage…what can learners read??… Well it depends on vocabulary levels of course. Some people are suggesting there need to be further levels of graded readers to cover the 4,000- 8,000 word levels (like the discontinued Longman Bridge Series). My assumption is that learners will be able to read well enough after the 3,800 level (which is where the Cambridge Readers go up to) to enjoy reading shorter non-graded literature. As for Dickens, I do know Heinle/Cengage have begun publishing some graded graphic novels, and I’m pretty sure there was a Dickens novel amongst the titles. They look great! .. As for using non-graded literature, obviously it would depend on the age of your learners, but I’d recommend beginning with shorter novels. Ian McEwan novels are quite short, although only really suitable for adult learners. Also allow your learners the opportunity to stop reading if they don’t like the book and to try something else…I really believe learners need as much choice as possible.

    I’d love to hear how you get on so please do keep me posted.


  •   jezuden
    July 20th, 2011 at 11:24 pm    

    Hi Sharon, thanks for your comments.

    How many students do you have in a class? I do use extensive reading in the classroom too, and there are cost effective ways of doing this. I’m not sure if this is going to help (I don’t have anywhere near 400 students) but this is what works for me…

    If I have 20 learners in a class i ask them each to choose a different book that interests them. If they each buy a different book (at lets say £5 a book), they then have a library of 20 books. Reading one book a week will therefore provide 20 weeks worth of reading all for just £5 each. There is no limit to the amount of classes you do this with in order to create a larger library. The students then read in their own time. I then organise my learners into small groups of 4 at the beginning of the lesson to discuss their books with each other. They then swap books and continue the cycle. The Cambridge Readers generally have a stronger underlying themes which are great for discussion and could be extended to classroom discussion.

    The other thing is the Drop Everything And Read (DEAR) idea, whereby at some during the lesson the teacher shouts DEAR, and everyone stops what they are doing and start reading in silence for 15-20 minutes…even the teacher.

    Here is a link to a talk I gave recently for the British Council

    Although I’d really recommend having a look at Professor Richard Day’s talk if you haven’t already seen it…

    Hope this helps… and I look forward to hearing how you get on


  •   Khushi
    September 9th, 2011 at 5:15 pm    

    I’m a big fan of graded readers and extensive (fun) reading to encourage lower level learners. It’s a very effective tool for increasing confidence. Everyone wins and students often start buying and swapping books on their own. I’ve also introduced extended reading to my advanced students (B2-C1).

    Before our summer break, I brought in a huge pile of books with their accompanying dvd – (Bridges of Madison County; The Firm; Into the Wild; Jane Goodall; Girl with the Pearl Earring, …). Each student (a group of 10) chose a book/dvd pair and read/viewed it over the summer. They just came back today and we had a great discussion of all the books and dvds. They came prepared with ‘wordles’ (jazzy mind maps) they’d made based on the books. And yes, they all said it was best to read the book before watching the dvd. Conversation and discussion came out of looking at each person’s ‘wordle’. It acted as a reminder for the reader-reporter and a visual cue for questions for the others. Almost everyone picked out another book to read. They were very enthusiastic about their reading experience.

    Thank you for your blog and links. It’s great to have this reassurance for something I’ve been pushing based mostly on instinct.

  • Hi Jez,

    I’m just about to start a Reading Club myself and I came across this post on your blog. Funny that EFL teachers can share the same creative ideas without knowing! :)

    My advanced students and I have chosen the “Crime stories” Macmillan reader and I was wondering whether you’d recommend doing the exercises that precede and follow each short story. We’re meeting in a café too and I must admit that I’m not 100% sure as to how to go about it. Worried about noise, not having a blackboard to correct mistakes.

    Any tips from your experience would be greatly appreciated!

    Looking forward to them!


  •   jezuden
    December 24th, 2011 at 1:04 pm    

    Hi Katie,

    Great news that you’re starting a book club!! :-)

    Are you planning on doing the actual reading in the cafe? or having learners read in their own time and meeting to discuss the books in the cafe…as in the traditional book club sense? I do the latter…and find that the noise is fine for having a discussion. For me, reading the books is the key issue…if we can encourage learners to enjoy reading books and to develop a reading habit (and in the case of book clubs ‘creating a reading community’) we have already done a great job!!… Introducing a focus on language learning e.g. intentional vocabulary learning, then I think we need to be teaching learners strategies to help them achieve this – for example knowing which words are worth focussing on explicitly (i.e. high-frequency) and then efficient ways on learning vocabulary through word cards, vocabulary notebooks, etc… what my classes do now is create their own vocabulary tests!

    I like to keep the book club as far from feeling like a classroom as possible though… a place where people dont feel under pressure, but enjoy listening to others talking about books and contributing when they feel like it. If there is a particular language point you want to highlight then maybe encourage your learners to bring a notebook, but its amazing how quickly grammatical chunks such as ‘I’ve just read …..” or “I’ve just finished reading…” soon start becoming routine openers without anyone having mentioned the present perfect tense!! …

    I’ll email you some further suggestions, then you can stay in touch while you’re setting the book club up and keep me posted with how it’s going!! I’d be really interested to see how it develops :-)

    Best wishes


  •   jezuden
    December 24th, 2011 at 1:16 pm    


    this sounds great!! I’m assuming that the books with DVDs weren’t graded? …Were the books and films different in content in any way? and if so did learners pick up on this? … I’ve just done a similar thing with some of my learners – no need for comprehension Qs… they were telling me how the film was terrible as it didn’t represent the book in any way… certain events were completely different, and some important ones were completely omitted etc… I also found it interesting when they were making suggestions for other actors instead of the ones used!!

    Look forward to hearing how your learners progress!! Keep me posted! :-)

    Best wishes


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