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A Journey of Learning: Reading

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In our daily lives, we come across a wide range of texts for reading such as some stories, academic or newspaper articles, reports, emails, notifications and messages. And we all have different reasons for reading these texts to enjoy, to communicate, or to get some new information. And this affects the way we teach. 

Reading is the process of taking in the sense or meaning of letters, symbols, etc., especially by sight or touch. [1], [2], [3], [4]

Another definition is the interpretation of symbols to extract the meaning from the visual notations or tactile signals (as in the case of Braille). [5]

Goodman defined reading as: “a receptive psycholinguistic process wherein the actor uses strategies to create meaning from text” (Goodman, 1997) [6]

Generally speaking, reading is an individual activity done silently. Children and adults read it as a leisure activity because it's interesting, enjoyable and informative. Reading, as one of the four core language skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) [7], is essential for improving the other three. Meaning is created by the interaction of the reader, the writer, and the text. Studies show that children who read have better socio-cultural development as well. According to studies, reading for pleasure has a significant impact on children's academic performance. It provides learners with the opportunity to enhance several key competences like communication, collaboration, critical thinking skills and empower their creativity.

Some of them are as follows: 

Reading

  • greatly boosts the brain power.
  •  improves empathy
  • it cultivates vocabularies
  • keeps one mentally sharp.
  • alleviates stress

On the other hand, Coronavirus has made some changes in our reading habits. According to the research conducted by Global English Editing [8], 35% of the world read more due to coronavirus. Some of the highlights of this research include: 

  • In the world, India is the country spending the most time on reading per person each week (10.42), and Czechia is the first in Europe (8.00).
  • Teenage girls in Germany spend 17 minutes more per day than teenage boys. 
  • Only 7% of the British readers are 18 to 24 years and most readers are over 55.
  • Romance is set to continue to be the most profitable and popular genre.
  • Printed books are still more profitable than eBooks and audiobooks. On the other hand, however, sales of physical books fell because of the coronavirus (not surprisingly). 
  • In reading the news more than once a day, the Swedish are the first, 85%, while the Spanish are the last in Europe with a percentage of 58%.

After seeing the results, we know that we must incorporate reading strategies in our EFL classes. We must make our reading activities more enjoyable in order to increase the number of books read and to increase our students' enthusiasm for reading. We can use gamification techniques or competitive environments to accomplish this from time to time. The technique is up to the teacher, but it is critical.

Readers will find some practices from our reading project with my English language class of 11th graders two years ago here. We planned our activities on a weekly basis over the course of a month. Using a feedback form and the project results, I found that my students like reading through these kinds of activities. Furthermore, the parents of these students stated that their children began reading for the sake of project activities.

Week 1: The teacher and students brainstorm the ideas for book topics and genres. The students then vote on the best topic and genre to read that week. They can read any book that they pick as long as it's in the theme and genre they chose. They prepare a three-minute presentation at the end of the week about the book they've read.

Week 2: The students read a book of their choice and prepare 5 questions about the book. Then, they bring their books to the class, show the cover of it and ask the questions to their peers: 

WHO is the main character? - a detective, a teenage girl etc.

WHERE does the plot take place mainly? - a desert, a camp, at school etc.

WHEN does the plot take place mainly? - past, present, future, in the 3000s?

WHAT is the book about?

The students guess the answers, later the student who read the book gives the true answers.

Week 3: Students must be "Travelling Readers." They select a magazine to read and must read it at seven different locations outside of the classroom but within the school environment, such as the sports hall, cafeteria or canteen, laboratories, school corridors, stairwells, and so on. Each time you read should last 7 minutes and you have to take selfies while you read. After that, they share their stories.

Week 4: Reading Challenge: In this activity, students decide on what one of their friends read. For ex: I used Alice to read “The Lost Symbol in one week”. 

Alice needs to find the book, read it and share it with a 2 minute video and choose some other friend. 

As this was last week’s activity, it didn’t end in one week. The students went on challenging each other at the end of the term. They were really amazing.

As much as I enjoyed doing this activity with my teenagers, here are some suggestions for modifying it for younger students. This is called “RDRS 4,3,2,1!” Stands for Read, Do, Record, Share! 3 is for 3 minutes, 2 is for 2 and 1 is for 1 minute long videos.

The students first read, then act, record a video while acting and share it with their friends. 

Week 1: Read a recipe with your mom, cook the dish together and record a 4 minute video. Then, share it with your class.

Week 2: Read a manual (building a lego etc.), build it, record a 3 minute video while you are building and share it with your class. 

Week 3: Read a safe/ fun experiment book and choose one experiment. Do the experiment with your parents and record a 1 minute video. Then, share it with your friends. 

Week 4: Reading Bingo: Take the Reading Bingo list from your teacher and play it. While you are doing the things in your list, take photos and make a 1 minute video from the photos you have taken. Bring it to the class and share with your friends. 

Reading Bingo List: 

  1. swap a story book with one of your friends
  2. read a short story about an animal
  3. dress up as the character of your favourite book
  4. read an eBook about science for kids
  5. read a magazine for kids
  6. Listen to an audiobook from the internet (you can find many resources from British Council Library) [9]
  7. read a comic book for kids

You do not always need to implement reading in your EFL teaching as a project. Many enjoyable separate activities you can use, as well. 

For example, you can set up a Class Library in a corner of your classroom. You can include famous quotes about reading or books that inspire the students in the area above that corner. Let the students bring their favourite books. A greater willingness to read will result if students bring books that they want to read and have recommendations from each other. Class Library Cards can be designed to ensure that users learn through similar experiences in the real world. For a week, a volunteer student can act as the librarian, keeping track of the books that have been borrowed. Everybody who reads the books should write a sticky note and leave their reviews with it that says something about the book or a statement from it that they liked.

Thanks to the Covid outbreak, we are able to arrange online meetings more easily than we were before the Covid outbreak. You can invite your students' favourite authors into class and host online reading sessions in which they can hear the authors read their favourite stories.

Or you can just read a course book text in some different ways: read in a lower voice/ in a higher voice/ in an angry manner/ with laughs/ in a worried manner/ in an excited tone of voice/ putting the word “fun” in front of every noun in the text, or instead of every adjective etc.

Whichever route you take, whatever you do, make certain they are reading. As Dr. Seuss, author of one of the most popular children's books, puts it, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you will learn, the more places you will go” 

Guide your students on a journey of learning.

REFERENCES:

[1] Cambridge Dictionary. (2021, May 19). read definition: 1. to look at words or symbols and understand what they mean: 2. to say the words that are printed. ... Learn more. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/read

[2] read. (n.d.). The Merriam-Webster.Com Dictionary. Retrieved May 26, 2021, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/read

[3] Read definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary. (2021, May 26). Collins Dictionaries. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/read

[4]  Read: Reproduce mentally or vocally the written or printed words by following the symbols with the eyes or fingers; The concise Oxford Dictionary. Oxford University Press. 1990. ISBN 0-19-861243-5.

[5] What Is Braille? | American Foundation for the Blind. (n.d.). American Foundation for the Blind. Retrieved May 26, 2021, from https://www.afb.org/blindness-and-low-vision/braille/what-braille

[6] Goodman, K. S. (1997). The reading process. In Encyclopedia of language and education (pp. 1-7). Springer, Dordrecht.

[7]Skills. (n.d.). British Council. Retrieved May 26, 2021, from https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/skills

[8] Cabrera, I. (2021, February 4). World Reading Habits in 2020 [Infographic]. Global English Editing. https://geediting.com/world-reading-habits-2020/

[9] British Council Digital Library catalog. (n.d.). British Council Library. Retrieved May 27, 2021, from https://library.britishcouncil.org/