extensive reading programme in enhancing students’ second language development
SMK Bandar Putra
This study was carried out to define ‘Extensive Reading Programme In Enhancing Students’ Second Language Development.’ This study was aimed to motivate the school students to develop their second language and to examine the problems faced by them while reading English texts. The topics included in this study are theories of reading, concepts pertaining to the study, extensive reading programme, and research related to extensive reading programme. At the end of the study, the effectiveness of extensive reading programme in developing English language can be shown.
Reading is one of the most important skills other than listening, speaking and writing. Many second language learners do not like to read because they feel it is a laborious and time-consuming process. The students do not favour the whole process of joining many words together and creating meaning. In order to end these laborious processes, extensive reading programme was introduced as a solution. According to Smith (1982), “we learn to read by reading”. The more one reads, the better one becomes. Eskey (1986) said “reading… must be developed, and can be developed by means of extensive and continual practice.
According to Day and Bamford (2002), in his volume, 25 Centuries of Language Teaching, acknowledged Harold Palmer with first applying the term extensive reading in foreign language pedagogy Palmer selected “extensive” from the multitude of synonyms previously used to convey similar ideas-such as “abundant reading”. For Palmer, extensive reading meant “rapidly” reading “book after book”. A reader’s attention should be on the meaning and not the language of the text.
A teacher and materials writer working in India established the methodology of extensive reading called “supplementary” reading. Today in language- teaching terms, extensive reading is recognized as one of four styles or way of reading, besides skimming, scanning and intensive reading (Day and Bamford, 1998)
After the extensive reading was introduced in many countries like United States, England, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Pakistan, it was firstly introduced in Malaysia in 1976. One of the earliest reading programme was the English language Reading Programme (ELRP) which began in 1976. This programme was aimed to promote reading in English, improve students’ reading and encourage language development. (Parkash Kaur, 2000)
Initially, the programme involved only selected residential schools in urban areas. These schools were provided with reading labs that are equipped with a large amount of graded reading materials. By the year 1983, about two hundred public schools were provided with reading labs. At the same time, campaigns on extensive reading and attempt to make Malaysia a literate society began voraciously. (Parkash Kaur, 2000)
The year 1988 was made the reading year with the theme “Reading as a Bridge to Knowledge”. Many reading camps, book exhibitions, campaigns and talks were held in state libraries, schools and the universities. Many activities were also carried out throughout the year to instill the reading habit among Malaysians. (Parkash Kaur, 2000) In the year 1990, the government introduced the Class Readers programme to encourage extensive reading in primary and secondary schools. The purpose of this programme was to promote the reading habit and language development among students. In this programme, students were required to read at least three class readers a year. The readers were chosen from simplified or adapted classics all over the world, including Malaysia. (Parkash Kaur, 2000)
After that, the Ministry of Education came up with the extensive reading projects such as Baca Untuk Tingkat Ilmu (BUKTI) to promote extensive reading in schools. This project was implemented to develop lifelong independent and autonomous readers in their learning. (Parkash Kaur, 2000)
According to Parkash Kaur (2000), besides all these extensive reading programmes, certain states in Malaysia was also introduced the Drop Everything and Read (DEAR) programme. This programme requires the participation of students, teachers and administrators that are working in schools. They have to drop everything that they are doing, pick up a book and read. The bell will be rung at any time without prior notice. Therefore, all have to be alert and start reading when the alarm is heard.
It is unbelievable to see the implementation of so many extensive reading programmes in Malaysia. Although so many extensive reading programmes were introduced in Malaysia, Malaysians do not take any initiative to improve their English through reading. Although the government has deposited a large amount of money to encourage Malaysians to read in English, Malaysians’ attitude towards reading remains stagnant and unchanged. Sad to say, that all these programmes are ‘sleeping in the cans’ until now.
theories OF READING
Over the last two decades, there have been important changes in ideas about processes involved in reading. In the 1950s, it was assumed that early reading was a matter of linking separate written words with speech equivalents-indeed, little more than are enforced for oral interaction (Malachi, 2002). This view was influenced by behaviourist theories of oral language learning which tended to focus on how meanings of separate words are figured, not on how children make sense of whole utterances. Later, in the early 1970s, when theories of Piaget, Bruner and Chomsky became influential, particularly in relation to the notion that human beings are highly active and constructive in their dealings with the environment, reading came to be seen as a meaning-making, hypothesis testing process. Those views holds that children learning to read construct meaning by assimilating what they see on the page with their existing mental structures. In other words, they make inferences from the limited cues in their repertoire. This reading behaviour is revealed in the work of Malachi (2002) on error analysis.
Following this, the reading researchers began to maintain that reading is a hypothesis-driven, active process. This view rests on a theory of reading based on the psycholinguistic model, in particular, the work of Goodman and Smith. Goodman, endorse by Smith, argued that the process of reading is selective and hypothesis-driven. He posits that good readers use their prior knowledge to predict and confirm information as they read. The contribution of the reader to the process of constructing meaning is significant. Because the reader samples textual cue has to confirm or reject her hypothesis, reading is characterized as a ‘psycholinguistic guessing game’. Therefore, it is appropriate to discuss the schema theory at this juncture. (Smith, 1982)
ESL Reading and Schema Theory
In this section, the three theories related to reading skills will be discussed in detail. The three theories are bottom-up, top-down, and interactive reading theory. The characteristics of each theory and which theory is related to the extensive reading programme will be identified through the explanations.
According to Malachi (2002), this theory, readers activate appropriate schemata against which they try to give a text a consistent interpretation. They could be said to have comprehended the text when they are successful at this. Schema theory research shows that the amount of background knowledge of a text corresponds directly with the degree of comprehension of the text. The implication of this for teaching is that by helping students build background knowledge prior to reading, they can improve their reading and comprehension. In order to provide this kind of help to students, it is necessary to consider models reading that could provide insights into the approaches to reading used by different learners. These models are the bottom-up model, the top-down model and the interactive model.
Bottom –up models typically consist of lower level reading processes. In the bottom up model, the reader is seen to begin reading with the written text and to construct meaning from the letters, words, phrases and sentences. The text is processed in a linear fashion. The incoming data or information has to be received before the higher-level mental stages can transform and recode the information. Schemata are hierarchically organized, from most specific at the bottom to most general at the top. Bottom-up models perceive reading as a process in which small parts or chunks of texts are absorbed and analyzed and later added to the following parts until the reader sees meaning in the text (Malachi, 2002).
One element of bottom-up approach to reading is that the pedagogy recommends a graded reader approach. All reading material is carefully reviewed so that the students are not exposed to vocabulary that is too difficult or that contains sounds that they have not yet been introduced to. Figure one is a graphic representation of a bottom-up approach to reading. The reader begins with the smallest elements and builds up to comprehension of what is being read. (Stanovich, 1980)
Top-down models, begins with the idea that comprehension resides in the reader. In the top-down model, similar to the bottom-up model, reading is seen as linear process but here the movement is from the top to bottom. Reading is seen as a conceptually driven process. The reader’s background knowledge is used in order to make predictions as the text is read. The text is sampled only to confirm or reject the predictions (Malachi, 2002).
The work of Goodman and Smith (Stanovich, 1980), discussed previously exemplifies the top-down model of reading. The proponents of each of the approaches, the bottom-up and the top-down, argue that their model is the true starting point or the controlling factor in the reading process. Figure 2 is a graphic representation of a top-down approach to reading. The reader begins with the largest elements and works down towards smaller elements to build comprehension of what is being read. (Stanovich, 1980)
Reading begins with reader background knowledge
The Interactive model
The models that are accepted as the most comprehensive description of the reading process are interactive models. This model combines elements of both bottom-up and top-down models assuming “that a pattern is synthesized based on information provided simultaneously from several knowledge sources” (Stanovich, 1980). The interactive model, like the top-down model, is also reader-driven. It views the reading process as an interaction between the reader and the text. Unlike the other two models, this model views the reading process as a cyclical pattern whereby textual information and the reader’s mental activities occur at both the bottom-up and top-down levels simultaneously (Malachi, 2002). As in the top down models, the reader is seen to use her expectations and previous understanding to guess text content while the contribution of the bottom-up processing is to ensure that the reader is sensitive to new information. Figure 3 is a graphic representation of an interactive approach to reading. The reader combines elements of both bottom-up and top-down models of reading to reach comprehension. (Stanovich, 1980).
Using insights from the three models, Eskey and Grabe (Malachi, 2002), suggested two general implications for the teaching of second language reading. First, they assert that a strong, bottom up foundation of basic identification skills needs to be developed in the second language context since even learners with well developed top-down skills in their L1 may not be able to transfer those skills into their L2. The second point, they make is that the top-down concern for reading for meaning should also be developed as “no student should ever be forced or encouraged to limit him or herself to mere decoding skills”.
The three theories of reading have been discussed in this section. All the theories seem relevant to the extensive reading programme, but the interactive model is preferred by most of the researchers.
Concepts pertaining to the STUDY
There are many concepts that are related to the extensive reading. If we refer to the journal written by Ratnawati and Ismail (2003) on the extensive reading programme, many concepts like reading, extensive reading, extensive reading approach, guided extensive reading, graded readers and others needs to be defined. Therefore in this section, definitions of all the key concepts pertaining to the extensive reading programme are defined in detail.
‘We learn to read by reading’. The more one reads the better one becomes. ‘Reading must be developed, and can be developed, by means of extensive and continual practice. There is never enough class time to devote to reading extensively; therefore, efforts need to be made to get students to read outside the classroom. For learners to be efficient readers, they need to do plenty of reading on their own. Reading can only be improved by reading. (Smith, 1982)
According to Nutall (1996), the more one reads, the better they understand. Better understanding will induce enjoyment to reading, and, the more the enjoyment, the faster the reader reads. Higher reading speed will help readers to read more and the cycle continues. Reading extensively is important in creating an information rich society which as one of the main goals of our country, Malaysia.
Reading is a fluent process of readers combining information from a text and their own background knowledge to build meaning. The goal of reading is comprehension. Strategic reading is defined as the ability of the reader to use a wide variety of reading strategies to accomplish a purpose for reading. Good readers know what to do when they encounter difficulties. Fluent reading is defined as the ability to read at an appropriate rate with adequate comprehension. Meaning does not rest in the reader nor does it rest in the text. The reader’s background knowledge integrates with the text to create the meaning. The text, the reader, fluency, and strategies combined together define the act of reading. (Grabe, 1991)
Teaching reading usually has at least two aspects. First, it can refer to teaching learners who are learning to read foe the very first time. A second aspect of teaching reading refers to teaching learners who already have reading skills in their first language. You only learn to read once. Once you have learned how to read in one language, you do not learn how to read again in a second or foreign language, but rather you learn how to transfer skills that you have already learned to the new reading context in a new language. (Grabe, 1991)
Loiss Kelly (1969, as cited in Day and Bamford, 1998), in his volume 25 Centuries of language teaching credits Harold Palmer with first applying the term extensive reading in foreign language pedagogy. The term "extensive reading" was originally coined by Palmer, (1917 as cited in Day and Bamford, 1998) to distinguish it from "intensive reading" - the careful reading of short, complex texts for detailed understanding and skills practice. For his 1917 book The Scientific Study and Teaching of Languages, he selected “extensive” from the multitude of synonyms previously used to convey similar ideas-such as “abundant reading” used in the landmark 1900 Report of the Committee of Twelve, which suggested how languages be taught in secondary schools. (Day & Bamford, 1998)
For Palmer, (1969 as cited in Day and Bamford,1998), extensive reading meant “rapidly” reading “book after book”. A reader’s attention should be on the meaning, not the language, of the text. Palmer contrasted this with what he termed intensive reading, by which he meant to “take a text, study it line by line, referring at every moment to our dictionary and our grammar, comparing, analyzing, translating, and retaining every expression that it contains”. A “multiple line of approach” was one of Palmer’s nine principles of language study, and he consequently saw the importance of both types of reading.
In Palmer’s conception of extensive reading, texts were clearly being read for the purposes of language study, but, because attention was on the content and not the language, it could only be that the texts were also being read for ordinary real-world purposes of pleasure and information. Therefore, it was that extensive reading took on a special sense in the context of language teaching: real-world reading but for a pedagogical purpose. (Day & Bamford, 1998)
It has since acquired many other names: Mikulecky, (1990 as cited in Day and Bamford, 1997) calls it "pleasure reading." Grabe (1991) and others use the term "sustained silent reading", while Krashen (1993a), (in press) call it simply "free reading”. Whatever name is used, the characteristics generally include the relatively fast reading of a large amount of longer, easy-to-understand material, with the reading done mostly outside of the classroom and at each student's own pace and level. There are few, if any, follow-up exercises, because the aim is for overall understanding rather than word-by-word decoding or grammar analysis. For the same reason, there is minimum use of dictionaries. Most importantly, instead of an inflexible curriculum saddling students with texts they neither enjoy nor understand, with extensive reading the material is generally chosen by the students themselves, who can thereby enjoy some small measure of responsibility for decisions affecting their learning, a basic tenet of communicative teaching. (Day & Bamford, 1997)
Extensive Reading Approach
An extensive reading approach aims to get students reading in the second language and liking it. Or, to put things more formally, as the Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied Linguistics does, extensive reading is “intended to develop good reading habits, to build up knowledge of vocabulary and structure, and to encourage a liking for reading”. As this definition implies, extensive reading also pays off in increased general second language competence. Although this will occasionally be referred to, the present volume mainly restricts itself to the impact of extensive reading on the ability to read in a second language. (Richards & Platt, 1992).
Grabe (1991), in a Tesol Quarterly paper, discusses some of the benefits of extensive reading. “Longer concentrated periods of silent reading build vocabulary and structural awareness, develop automaticity, enhance background knowledge, improve comprehension skills, and promote confidence and motivation”. In addition, extensive reading can counteract “ A tendency among foreign language learners always to regard a text as an object for language studies and not as an object for factual information, literacy experience or simply pleasure, joy and delight”
This last point may be more important than it at first seems. Studies of both first and second language beginning readers in many countries have revealed telling connection between reading ability and the views students hold about reading. Readers of lower ability tend to see reading in terms of “school work” or “as a serious, difficult process, higher reading ability, on the other hand, take a meaning-centered approach (Devine, 1984 as cited in Day and Bamford, 1998). For them, reading is a “pleasant, imaginative activity”. (Elley, 1992 as cited in Day and Bamford) said that, a way to learn things that is both a private pleasure and a social activity. It is the latter views-the kind fostered by extensive reading –that are most often associated with successful outcomes when teaching reading.
As an approach to learning to read a second language, extensive reading may be done in and out of the classroom. Outside the classroom, extensive reading is encouraged by allowing students to borrow books to take home and read. In the classroom, it requires a period of time, at least 15 minutes or so, to be set aside for sustained silent reading, that is, for students- and perhaps the teacher as well-to read individually anything they wish to (Day & Bamford, 1998).
Some reading specialists-Stephen King and Beatrice Mikulecky come immediately to mind-call extensive reading pleasure reading. As he told at a 1995 colloquium audience, William Grabe is not particularly keen on either term: extensive reading being rather general, and pleasure reading too specific in that “ lots of people… get turned on to all kinds of materials that someone wouldn’t put in a pile called pleasure reading. Extensive reading is people willing to engage… (with) a lot of extended texts for a variety of reasons.” There is also a possibility that “pleasure reading” has frivolous overtones for students, parents, and administrators. Perhaps for these reasons, Krashen and his colleagues have used another term, free voluntary reading. (Day and Bamford, 1998)
Guided Extensive Reading
According to the journal written by Ratnawati and Ismail (2003), the Guided Extensive Reading (GER) programme was adapted from Hsui’s (2000) (as cited in Ratnawati and Ismail, 2003). Guided Independent Reading (GIR), which as she suggests, “may be used as a supplementary reading programme in upper primary (5th and 6th grade) and lower secondary (7th to 9th grade) classrooms …for students who can read with varying degrees of proficiency. The key features of the GER programme are as follows: the teachers need to be well-informed about the books and reading materials that would appeal to their students, GER needs to be conducted in a relaxed, informal, classroom atmosphere, where the teacher focuses on helping students read for pleasure, the reading materials should be within the students’ level of competency, students are given the opportunity to choose the books that they would like to read, the programme needs to be conducted on a regular basis and students reading progress is monitored and reinforced by giving words of praise and encouragement or by awarding them “stars”, etc., for books read.
The features of the GER programme seem to correspond with most of Day and Bamford’s (2002) “Top Ten Principles for Teaching Extensive Reading”. These include the fact that reading material should be within the learners’ level of competency, that they be allowed to choose what they want to read, that the teachers orient and guide the students, that reading is individual and silent, and that the purpose of reading is for pleasure. As Day and Bamford have mentioned, these are among the basic ingredients of extensive reading, and among the conditions and methodology necessary for its success. (Ratnawati & Ismail, 2003)
EXTENSIVE READING PROGRAMME
In extensive reading programme, all the learners are reading different material at their own ability level, which builds reading fluency and reading confidence because the learners select what they want to read.
It is important to note that the main aim of this type of reading is not to practice the reading skills, but to practice and learn the language (i.e. grammar and vocabulary) through reading. This type of reading is called intensive reading, because the learner is intensively involved in looking inside the text at the vocabulary and grammar, and is concentrating on a 'careful reading' of the text.
Extensive reading programme aims to build more language knowledge, rather than practice the skill of reading. Extensive reading programme by contrast, aims to build reading fluency and reading confidence. It is worthwhile looking at what the learner can learn from these extensive reading texts. There are many advantages through the extensive reading programme.
Firstly, if the reading is done within the learner’s current reading ability level, then the learner will be processing words faster and building the automatic recognition of words. This will allow her to read faster. As the learner reads faster, she will begin to see words in groups or ‘chunks of language,’ which allows her to move from reading ‘word-by-word’ to ‘reading-with-ideas,’ thus increasing reading fluency. When learners read faster, they understand more.
Second, extensive reading builds confidence in reading, and motivation to read more, because the reading is not difficult. Third, extensive reading helps learners to form the habit of reading, which can be especially useful for Malaysian learners of English who typically are not exposed to massive amounts of language practice otherwise. Once the learners have the reading habit, they can take this with them all their lives and continue to improve their second language in the absence of teachers and classes.
Fourth, our brains work very well at noticing patterns. We make patterns out of the ‘chaos’ of life to make it simple to understand. We find patterns in behavior, nature, music and of course, language. It is only from exposure to massive amounts of input (like reading) in a foreign language that the brain can work out these patterns.
Extensive reading programme provides opportunities for noticing new language and working out the patterns in text and phrases.
It is vital to make sure that all the people affected by the extensive reading program are involved. They need to know what its aims, goals and objectives are, so try to enlist these people in the setting up. As much as possible, try to make group decisions. Ensure that all the people involved (including the learners) understand the program. If this is not done there is a danger the extensive reading program may become disappear when the teacher incharge transferred to another school. There is often no need to have hard-and-fast rules for all teachers to follow. For example,
individual teachers may decide to require different amounts of reading, or different lengths or types of reading reports, or other assessment procedures.
A sage piece of advice when setting up an extensive reading programme is to “Start small, think big.” This means we will need to find ways to manage the Graded Reading library so that it can grow and change as the reading program changes over time. Extensive reading programs come in all shapes and sizes. Some are restricted to a single class, others to a group of classes, some are school-wide, and others affect a whole school district. So this needs to be taken into consideration when deciding what to do.
As with any class, after running the extensive reading programme for the first few weeks, there should be a review to see if any changes need to be made. Ensure that any changes are agreed to by all those involved.
Eight characteristics out of ten characteristics of extensive reading programme were chosen for this programme by the researchers. The ten characteristics were based on Day and Bamford’s (1998), Top Ten Principles of Extensive Reading. These characteristics were used as the guideline throughout the programme. (Ratnawati & Ismail, 2003).
Characteristics of Extensive Reading Programme
What is extensive reading? Similar to the term reading, there is no one definition of extensive reading. The characteristics of the extensive reading are described comprehensively by Day and Bamford (1998).
Quantity is important. Students should be encouraged to read as much as possible and most of the reading should be done out of class. The number of books that should be read is reader dependent. Poor reader read slower, gets tired faster, and therefore, read less compared to advanced learners. A book a week is a good goal for beginner readers.
Variety of Materials
Readers read different texts for different purposes and in different ways. To develop students’ ability in becoming an efficient and versatile reader, they need to develop skills which require them to adjust their reading strategies to different types of tasks and texts.
Let students read texts that they are interested in. Many teachers are very concerned about the quality of text that the students read. This should not be too much of a concern at the beginning stages. The main interest is to get students to read and enjoy reading. Once they enjoy reading, they will develop the reading habit.
At this stage, students are also more confident readers and are more ready to be weaned off to other reading materials, including materials considered as ‘high quality’ by teachers. If students are struck to a text for a couple of weeks, chances are they are having a lot of difficulty reading. Therefore, change the texts so that they are not demotivated.
Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy! This is one of the most important characteristics of extensive reading. Students must find it pleasurable. The purpose of extensive reading is also for general comprehension. Therefore, 100% comprehension of the text is both unnecessary and undesirable.
Reading Materials Are Well Written
The readability of the text should be one level lower than the student’s current level or “i-1”. What if you have students who want to read texts said that they are very interested but written for readers who have higher linguistic competency? If students insist on reading a text which they are interested in but it is a level or two higher, allow them to read the text. Interest is a very strong variable and it may overcome linguistic difficulty.
Avoid Using Dictionary
Discourage students from using the dictionary. When faced with difficult words, they should read ahead and guess the meaning of the word. Chances are they will discover that they can still understand the text without understanding the specific word. Stopping and looking at the dictionary disrupts the flow of reading and slows down reading. It is interruptive and it does not contribute to fluent reading.
There is also evidence from research that the use of dictionary does not necessarily improve general reading comprehension. Students who use the dictionary do not necessarily perform better in reading comprehension tasks compared to those who did not. When asked to define words, students using dictionary tend to write longer compared to those who did not.
When reading extensive reading texts, students tend to read faster compared to reading the texts in the class because students are reading materials which are easy and that they are interested in. Therefore, extensive reading contributes to reading rate development where the more they read, the faster they read.
Teachers need to explain the programme to the students so that they understand the aims, rationale, benefits and most of all the know-how. Teachers also play the role of the cheerleader in encouraging students to read and to keep reading. Teachers are also librarians that make sure that the process of borrowing and exchanging books are done efficiently.
Books need to be arranged in accordance to both readability levels and subject areas. Books also need to be exhibited interestingly so that they appeal to students. Teachers should guide the students so that they get the most out of the programme, keep track of the books students read, and monitor students’ progress or lack of it.
The teacher needs to demonstrate what being a reader means and shares the enjoyment and rewards of being a reader .Nutall (1983) asserts that ‘Reading is like an infectious disease: it is caught not taught. A teacher is an important role model. Just one teacher, you can make all the difference!
All the eleven characteristics involved were explained in detail in this part. All these principles are vital as a guideline to be used during the extensive reading programme.
As mentioned before, there are two types of vocabulary knowledge-receptive and productive. Receptive vocabulary is vocabulary that readers recognize instantly. Readers have their general sense of meaning but are not confident enough to use the words when they speak or write. On the other hand, productive vocabulary is the vocabulary that readers know well and use in speaking and writing. Both types of vocabularies are important in reading. Through extensive reading programme, students are expected to improve their vocabulary knowledge when they read unlimited books and encounter new words. (Day and Bamford, 1998) conclude that, “incidental learning of words during reading may be the easiest and single most powerful means of promoting large-scale vocabulary growth”. Many researches have been done to prove that vocabulary knowledge was improved through extensive reading programme. The researches carried out and the results are explained in detail below.
Reading skills can also be empowered through extensive reading programme. By reading a large number of books, the speed of reading will be faster and the reading rate will keep on increasing. Since the students are reading graded readers that are designed to boost the students’ interest towards reading, students will enjoy reading and improve reading skills in the long run. Extensive reading helps to develop reading ability. Renandya and Jacobs (1999) conducted a study among remedial learners at a secondary school in the Philippines. After six months of extensive reading, significant gains in the remedial students reading performance were achieved. These results are supported by Rob and Susser (1989) in the research sited above. Rob and Susser (1989) also reported that extensive reading leads to a great increase in the students reading ability in the L2.
Extensive reading also helps to develop writing skills. Since the students are exposed to various types of interesting books, their knowledge will expand and they will have vast ideas to write a good piece of essay. Exposure to too many types of new words, phrases and sentences will render new ideas to write well. Elley and Maghubhai (1989) in the research cited above reported that the subjects’ writing skills significantly improved after extensive reading. Janoplaus (1986) also found that there is a significant correlation between proficiency in written English and reading for pleasure among ESL students in the United States.
Research related to Extensive Reading Programme
Many researches have been carried on extensive reading programme since the 20th century. All the research carried out has shown positive outcomes in language development. In this section the researchers who conducted the researches and the results that lead to language development will be discussed in detail.
Table 1 is an overview of a number of investigations of extensive reading in both second and foreign language settings. With one exception, all were English as second language (ESL) or English as a foreign language (EFL) programmes. It is apparent from Table 1 that extensive reading in these programmes had beneficial results. Students increased their reading ability in the target language, developed positive attitudes towards reading, had increased motivation to read, and made gains in various aspects of proficiency in the target language, including vocabulary and writing. These programmes were in a variety of settings with diverse population, from young children to adults.
One of the most comprehensive investigations of extensive reading was done by Elley and Maghubai in a rural area of Fiji in 1980. In a carefully controlled longitudinal investigation involving many schools, some students were “given a rich diet of books” while others had “little or no access to books”. The rich diet of books, labeled “book flood,” featured “activities designed to encourage extensive reading”. Eight months later, comparisons in a number of different categories were made with groups of similar ability and circumstances. The results were exciting. As Elley and Maghubai (1981) wrote:
The impact of the books is clearly positive, and as one would aspect, most marked in those English skills which the pupils had been practicing-general reading and listening comprehension. However, the effect did spread to related skills, as shown by the greater progress made in learning written English structures, and the ability to recite complex English sentences correctly. (pp. 24-25)
Table 1. Summary of results of extensive reading programmes. (Day and Bamford, 1998)
Elley & Maghubai (1981)
Hafiz & Tudor (1989);
Pitts et.al (1989)
Robb & Susser (1989)
Hafiz & Tudor (1990)
Cho & Krashen (1994)
Mason& Krashen (1997)
EFL; primary; Fiji
ESL; University; USA
ESL; Adults; USA
EFL; University; Japan
EFL; Primary; Pakistan
EFL; Primary; Singapore
ESL; Adults; USA
Spanish; University; USA
EFL; University; Japan
Gains in reading and general proficiency, including listening and writing; growth in positive aspect
Gains in writing proficiency
Gains in reading proficiency, positive affect, and general linguistic competence, including writing; slight, nonsignificant increase in vocabulary base
Gains in vocabulary
Gains in reading proficiency and positive affect
Gains in reading vocabulary base and writing
Gains in reading proficiency and positive affect
Gains in reading proficiency and vocabulary
Gains in reading proficiency, vocabulary, positive affect, and oral skills.
Gains in positive affect; no statistically significant gains in vocabulary
Gains in reading proficiency, positive affect, and writing.
It is important to stress that these results were obtained in a culture in which reading for pleasure “is not a widely accepted custom”. Another factor that mitigated against the benefits was that most of the children were unable to take books home because of school rules.
Second language reading ability
An extensive reading approach seems to be effective in a wide variety of circumstances and with different types of students. Even when circumstances might be judged as less than favourable, the gains are nonetheless apparent. For example, Fung –Kuen Lai (1993a, 1993b) in Hong Kong discovered that in a four–week summer extensive reading programme the students displayed gains in their reading performance in English. Mason and Krashen (1993) reported that “reluctant” EFL readers at a Japanese University made statistically significant gains on a cloze test after a semester of reading extensively.( Day & Bamford 1998).
According to Rob (2002), there are many reasons why learners should read extensively. Firstly, if the reading is done within the learner’s current reading ability level, then the learner will be processing words faster and building the automatic recognition of words. This will allow her to read faster. As the learner reads faster, she will begin to see words in groups or ‘chunks of language,’ which allows her to move from reading ‘word-by-word’ to ‘reading-with-ideas,’ thus increasing reading fluency. When learners read faster, they understand more. Secondly, Extensive Reading helps learners to form the habit of reading, which can be especially useful for Japanese learners of English who typically are not exposed to massive amounts of language practice otherwise. Once the learners have the reading habit, they can take this with them all their lives and continue to improve their second language in the absence of teachers and classes. (Day & Bamford 1998).
In the process of completing our journal, we found that the extensive reading programme was worth researching. Although the research was done by two prominent researchers, Ratnawati Mohd Asraf and Ismail Sheikh Ahmad, we found that the extensive reading programme really benefited the participants involved.
In fact many researchers like Hafiz, Tudor, Elly, Maghubai and Lai obtained positive outcomes from the research carried out on extensive reading programme. We personally feel that extensive reading programme is the most suitable programme to encourage students to improve their English Language. This is because students gain improvements in reading, writing and speaking skills. If the teachers carry out listening activities using the graded readers, listening skills can also be obtained. It also motivates and changes the students’ attitudes towards learning. Involving in extensive reading programme will ensure the students to acquire the second language learning skills in a package.
The outcomes obviously showed that the school students gained positive outcomes. When the school students gained a positive outcome from the research, this programme can be safely implemented to students of other rural schools in Malaysia. We personally feel that reading will really help students to acquire English language. When so many methods have failed, why not the government reimplements the extensive reading programme which was sleeping in the cans all this while? It will be possible if the government, schools and teachers are willing to cooperate to make this programme a successful one.
Future English teachers should insist the primary and secondary schools to implement the extensive reading programme especially in rural schools. It will surely be beneficial programme although the cost of implementing this programme is quite high. As a conclusion, the extensive reading programme is hoped to produce Malaysian students who are proficient in English language and would cater for the realization of Vision 2020.
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