All participants were enrolled in eight classes per week. Six out of the eight were identical; all focused on listening and speaking, all were taught in English by native speakers of English, and all used the same textbooks and the same audio tapes. Subjects also were enrolled in either a grammar or phonology class that was taught in Japanese. The eighth class was the Extensive Reading (ER) class which was held once a week.
ER students were asked to read 1,000 pages (about 250,000 words) from graded readers each semester. At the beginning of the study, subjects read an orientation booklet written by this researcher and viewed a video that explained the program. Almost 100% of the students stated that they understood the significance of the program and would attempt to do the reading. Approximately 5000 books were arranged according to level in the ER classroom, and the students selected books weekly according to their proficiency level and interest. All participants started reading beginning level graded readers (600 word level) and gradually moved up to higher level readers (1100, 1600, and 2200 word levels) and to authentic books written for young native-speaking adults.
Reading was done mostly at home. Students were required to keep a record of their reading homework, including the number of pages read, and to submit a notebook every week in which they wrote a brief summary for each book they read. The normal procedure was to require that this summary be written in English. They also wrote their reflections on the content of what they read and wrote comments about their progress in reading in Japanese.
After two weeks, listening to stories was incorporated into the extensive reading class. Listening to stories provides comprehensible input for the development of overall language competence, including listening and vocabulary (Allen & Allen, 1985; Elley, 1989; Brett, Rothlein, & Hurley, 1996; Vivas, 1996). The classroom procedure and the stories were the same for all the classes.