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Popular ESL Author’s ‘Long Stories Short’ Builds Reading and Language Connections

May 6, 2024

Ann Gianola has become known for her stories.

But when she started writing them, it was out of necessity. Gianola taught English as a second language for 37 years with the San Diego Community College district. Like many adult education classes, retention was an issue.

“I understood from research—and witnessed firsthand—the strong connection between reading and language development,” she said. But at that time, there weren’t many resources for low-level ESL learners.

So, she started writing her own stories, which often ended with unexpected punch lines and humorous twists, and class attendance began to grow. Students would show up and ask if there would be a story during class. Reading became central to her lessons.

“The benefits of reading were evident,” she said. “It increased vocabulary, taught correct grammar and spelling, modeled syntax, and gave opportunities to practice pronunciation. Ideally, it also offered useful information, sparked conversation, and provided entertainment.”

Entertainment is key, she said, because adults are not a captive audience like children in school— adults have to want to be there. She saw that the stories she was bringing to class were engaging her students and realized she was on to something. She decided to see if she could get traction with a publisher in the field. ProLiteracy New Readers Press took notice, and 25 years and 31 titles later, she has just completed her eighth series with us—Long Stories Short.

Long Stories Short

The first books in the new Long Stories Short series, low beginning and high beginning, are set to be released this month. Introductory and low-intermediate will be out in July, and the intermediate book will follow in August.

The series provides relevant and enjoyable reading material that corresponds to key themes adhering to adult education program standards. Illustrations and photos support understanding. There are also comprehension questions, vocabulary reinforcement exercises, pronunciation practice, realia examples, and partner activities, including discussion, dialogs, and role-playing. Despite being reading-based lessons, there are many opportunities to practice speaking, understanding, and writing as well.

Gianola was also careful to make sure the stories in this latest series resembled real experiences students might encounter in the world today.

Situations characters face include a parent/teacher conference, tipping culture, a co-worker’s wedding, food allergies, online dating, and internet scams.

“But nothing ends too tragically,” she said. “Even with a serious subject there’s a little bit of a lightheartedness to them.”

She gives each story a lot of thought and tries to keep them contemporary, relatable, and not too controversial, because classrooms are filled with very diverse people with various world views.

“Reading is a good opportunity to teach or review language related to money, the workplace, ordinal numbers—the first wedding, the second wedding, the third—and so on. These are the kind of things we have to address in the classroom—language we have to teach—but [stories] give it a nice context.

While Long Stories Short includes updated content for today’s world, it’s also the first time Gianola has written an intermediate-level book for New Readers Press. This gives instructors at this level the same opportunity to teach all the necessary skills using a reading-based format. The stories, she said, are a bit longer, more complex, and don’t need to rely so heavily on illustrations and pictures.

“All stories are fun and challenging to write, in their own way, but you can be much freer with language [at the intermediate level],” she said. “Though, you also have to think of a longer story arc and what’s going to happen and what students are going to get out of this.”

With nearly four decades under her belt helping adults learn English, Gianola has found the perfect balance between useful instruction and student satisfaction that leads to student progress.

“The best part, honestly,” she said, “is when students are successful in the classroom, or I get messages from teachers saying how much their students enjoy the materials. That’s so rewarding. I don’t know how much more rewarding something could be in life, honestly. Especially when I’ve had no hand in teaching it. [The books] just go off into the universe, and people use them as they will, and they enjoy them.”


Webinar: A Long Story Short: An Interview with Popular ESL Author Ann Gianola

New Readers Press Educational Consultant Roberta Power interviews veteran teacher and author Ann Gianola on her newest multi-level book series, Long Stories Short. Together they will discuss what teachers can expect from the stories and exercises, which reflect the charm, clarity, and humor reminiscent of Ann’s previous collections, while offering current, digitally friendly, real-world topics and experiences.

When: May 22, 12 p.m. – 12:30 p.m. ET


Get Long Stories Short

Set your English language learners up for success with proven reading-based English language instruction. We will begin releasing books from this series later this month. Order Long Stories Short now, and take 10% off this and other select ESL materials during the month of May! Offer ends 5/31/24.

Order Now 


View Sample Pages 

Long Stories Short Introductory

Long Stories Short Low Beginning

Long Stories Short High-Beginning

Other books written by Ann Gianola that can be purchased from New Readers Press include Stories Plus, From Home to School, Health Stories, That’s Life, Life Goes On, Novel Scenes, and More Novel Scenes.