Encouraging reading for pleasure

I think we all know the importance of reading and the difference it can make in educational performance. Parents are encouraged to read to their children from as early an age as possible. In the UK all babies can claim a pack from Bookstart   (https://www.booktrust.org.uk/what-we-do/programmes-and-campaigns/bookstart/) which offers an amazing service. I’m lucky that both my children love books and for them going to the library is a treat. 

The Bookstart bear

Yet in the context that I teach in (HE) reading for pleasure is rarely addressed, even though it is just as valuable. As with babies and children, reading for pleasure offers HE students a relaxed opportunity to expand their language, through exposure to vocabulary and structures. With this in mind, a colleague and myself started a small scale project this term with a group we share. We both teach on slightly different modules: her module focusing on reading and writing skills and mine on listening and speaking; however, we both thought that this could be used to our advantage and also demonstrate that listening for pleasure is just as beneficial. We decided that for the students to see the benefit, the materials we chose would need to be linked to their coursebooks. Luckily, the module course books mirror each other.  A reading carousel has been set up in the college (with the intent for students to sit and read) and so we decided to use the magazines on this carousel. This also meant that students would have access to the actual articles used and have the opportunity to read in more detail. We then sat down and looked at the coursebooks to see which units could best be used, deciding at the same time to only use 4 out of 10 units in the book, so that the sessions would be different. Once we had the units, we found matching articles, form which I took the image (or a related image) and where I could found news extracts (Blue Planet 2 was very useful!) and other audio sources that complimented the chosen text. We then planned our sessions separately, sharing them to ensure that the lessons followed each other, but could be taught in any order (i.e. either the reading or the listening sessions first). We are at the point where we have completed 3 out of the 4 sessions and so far it’s all gone really well. The students have responded well to the materials. All we need to do now is successfully move it on to the students reading (and listening) independently for pleasure. To start this, I launched the  reading and listening challenge with my students last week. Using Readingo (mentioned in the post from 2nd November 2018), I challenged the students to listen or read to the topics mentioned on the card (I gave each student a laminated Readingo card) and try to get 4 in a row. The idea is they cross off the topic, once they’ve read or listened to something on it. Once they had done that, they can show me or my colleague and receive a small prize. Being aware some dear students may just cross items off without reading or listening, I set up a forum. Once they’ve crossed off a topic, students are to add a small comment of what they’ve read or heard.  So far, I’ve had no takers…

My next move is to look at ways to improve this. It may mean having students read or listen independently in class, but most likely it’ll be something I’ve not thought of…yet! 

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About sarahali

I am linguist working in the EFL field. I started my teaching career in East Germany in 1997, continuing for a while (7 years) in Austria before settling back in the UK, where I am now based. I have taught English in various forms (ESP, ESOL, Business English, EFL (general) and EAP) to students ranging from 3 years of age to 80. I have written, developed and edited teaching material and curricular for the Arabic speaking world, as well as African countries. I have also written materials and teacher's books for 3-year olds learning in multi-lingual schools in Spain and have worked on translating and adapting Early Readers for the international market. I'm currently a senior tutor for EAP, a TEL coordinator and an academic proofreader. I also work as a freelance materials writer and developer. I speak English, German and French, with a basic knowledge of Arabic and Spanish.
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