Collaboration is a cornerstone of JALT activities and the same goes for SIGs. While many people often think of collaboration within a SIG, there is an ever-growing amount of collaboration between SIGs as well as among SIGs, chapters, or other groups. This year, the SIG Focus column would like to highlight SIG collaboration in all its forms. Please feel free to contribute or suggest ideas by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Extensive Reading (ER) SIG was founded in 2008 to help promote the reading of books and materials that are easy and interesting for language learner development. In addition to helping teachers set up extensive reading programs, the SIG aims to raise awareness of extensive reading and help those with budding programs make the most of them. To achieve these goals, the SIG brings together the knowledge and experience of its members and the ER community in two publications (Extensive Reading in Japan and Journal of Extensive Reading). Also, the SIG regularly holds forums and seminars with speakers from within our membership as well as internationally recognized speakers.
Collaborating within JALT
There is a wide array of topics related to extensive reading, and the ER SIG has a great deal of overlap with other SIGs. Similar to the VOCAB SIG, our group is interested in how exposure to reading input relates to language acquisition. Since extensive reading often relies upon materials specially modified for learners, we share an interest in online tools and platforms for making those materials more accessible with the CALL SIG. The brain science behind the process of reading is of deep interest to many of our members, which is clearly shown in the BRAIN SIG and ER SIG’s joint publication.
We have collaborated with several SIGs for the Extensive Reading in Japan Seminar. The 6th ER Seminar was held jointly with JALTCALL 2013 with presentations about the use and creation of e-books, online reading platforms, and the development of an online reading placement test. The role of corpus studies and explicit vocabulary teaching were major themes at the 7th ER Seminar, held jointly with the VOCAB SIG and the Japan Exten-sive Reading Association (JERA). The ER SIG has also partnered with local JALT chapters throughout Japan from Kitakyushu to Hokkaido to hold seminars. That cooperation and support from local chapters has helped bring presentations about extensive reading to all JALT members, regardless of their location.
Collaborating beyond JALT
As an affiliate of the Extensive Reading Foundation, the ER SIG has participated in the Extensive Reading World Congress (ERWC); and most recently, in August this year, our members were actively involved in the Extensive Reading Around the World (ERAW) conference bringing together more than 750 participants across various time zones for four days. Together with the JERA, the ER SIG helped sponsor the World Congress twice when it was held in Japan. JERA has also worked together with us for the ER Seminar several times. Thanks to participating in these international events, SIG members have been able to build working relationships and friendships with extensive reading practitioners and researchers around the world.
Building a Community
Personally, the ER SIG has been my gateway to becoming more involved in JALT. When I attended my first PanSIG conference, I felt awkward and out of place, but the ER SIG members were welcoming and happily shared ways I could get involved. Thanks to events like the ER Forums at JALT conferences and the Extensive Reading World Congress, I now have a wide network of colleagues who share my interest in extensive reading. Many of the best serendipitous meetings and discussions happen in the unstructured time at events. Discussions in the hallway after a presentation or meeting some new people over curry can really spark new ideas.
To further grow our members’ networks, our SIG started holding regular informal meet-ups on Zoom. We hold a Zoom meeting every fourth Friday of the month from 19:00 to 21:00 for members and others who are interested in extensive reading to gather and chat. Sometimes members have something specific to talk about, such as workshopping a presentation abstract or getting advice on books to purchase for a member’s library. Other times people just catch up with each other and shoot the breeze. All are welcome, so check us out on our social media if you would like to drop in.