I’ve been living in Japan for 37 years. Prior to that I had been teaching English in America for 5 years. I’ve been doing Extensive Reading (ER) for at least 35 years. And I’ve been teaching in my current university for 31 years, in charge of the reading program for probably 35 years. So what my doing is not a new fad.
How I came to this field is sort of strange and unique. In undergraduate days, my major was elementary education and early childhood education and my minor was learning disabilities. Basically I was trained to be a reading specialist.
But then when I got out of the undergraduate, in the mid 1970s teaching jobs were very difficult to find but I got a teaching job in a maximum security prison in Southern Illinois, as a reading teacher.
In this particular prison, they started sending me the Spanish speakers, most of whom were Mexican and Puerto Rican speakers and they were prisoners. They were sent to me because they couldn’t read. Well, of course they could not read because English is not their first language.
So I started out by buying EFL (English for Foreign Learners) and ESL (English as a Second Language) books. I split off one of my reading classes and started to work with these Spanish speakers. And that made me back to graduate school and I really enjoyed that.
Prison was also a very interesting place but I don’t want to spend the rest if my lfe teaching there even it’s my job.
As a young man, I was always longing to travel and teach and be a writer, which is also a priority. In 1982 I moved to Japan, started teaching in a conversation school for several years and eventually got hired by an institution.
Back in the mid 1980s, many American universities opened Japan campuses. So I started teaching at the University of Pittsburgh campus. And I got hired by my own school (Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Japan).
He is now enthusiastically helping teachers around the world believe that they can make a difference. That is why teachers become teachers. To open new worlds for students and extensive reading can do that!
(As told by Prof. Marc Helgesen himself)