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  • 1. English recreational reading habits of Arab Jordanian EFL tertiary students Mohammad N. Khreisat and Sarjit Kaur English Language Studies, University Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia Abstract Purpose – This study aims to investigate English recreational reading habits of Arab Jordanian EFL university students when classes are in session and during vacation, and the types of recreational reading they engage in. In addition, the study explores other relationships such as the relationship between reading habits and students’ cumulative grade point average (CGPA); and the effect of parents’ educational level and their time spent on reading. Design/methodology/approach – The respondents, comprising 225 third- and fourth-year English majors, completed an English recreational reading habits questionnaire. The study utilised a non-probability sampling method, namely, purposive sampling. Data were analysed using IBM SPSS software v. 20. Findings – The findings indicated that students read more when they were on vacation compared to their readings while classes are in session. The students’ average time spent on reading when classes are in session and during vacation is 2.15 hours and 2.82 hours per week, respectively. Slightly more than half (57 percent) the students always read emails/chat rooms/Facebook, which are their most preferred type of recreational reading. Non-fiction books were the least favourite among students with 47 percent of students indicating that they never or rarely read this type of genre. Among all the reading interests, only novels had a significant correlation with the students’ CGPA. The findings showed that the respondents with higher levels of fathers’ education were significantly reading more. Originality/value – The reading habits of EFL students have received little attention and there is limited research that surveyed Arab EFL students’ recreational reading habits at the tertiary level. The purpose of this study is to address this gap in the literature and set out to be a point of reference and comparison for future investigations about English recreational reading habits of Arab EFL tertiary students. Keywords Literacy, Arab EFL tertiary students, Jordanian students, Reading interests, Recreational reading habits, Voluntary reading Paper type Research paper 1. Introduction Beyond looking at reading as a mere decoding process, that is, learning to read, the ultimate purpose of being literate is the application of the ability to read, which is reading to learn (OECD, 2010b). Many organisations and countries invest a great amount of effort in eliminating illiteracy. Many countries, however, are now concerned with an increasingly dire phenomenon called aliteracy rather than illiteracy (Edwards, 2008), that is choosing not to read. Thus, the issue of aliteracy has received considerable low critical attention when compared to illiteracy. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD, 2010b) attests that “the ultimate goal of education is to cultivate not only proficiency, but also engagement in reading and continuing to read”. Purcell-Gates et al. (2002) assert that educational organisations will not achieve literacy goals if they produce individuals who can read but choose not to do so. The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at Received 26 August 2013 Revised 20 December 2013 11 February 2014 Accepted 19 March 2014 Education, Business and Society: Contemporary Middle Eastern Issues Vol. 7 No. 1, 2014 pp. 17-32 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 1753-7983 DOI 10.1108/EBS-08-2013-0030 English recreational reading habits 17
  • 2. Some scholars (van Schooten and de Glopper, 2002; Miesen, 2003) have expressed their concerns that new generations are reading markedly less than those that came before, since their decision to read is competing with other leisure activities (e.g. watching TV or doing sports). These findings have heightened the need for a serious investigation into the status quo of the recreational reading habits of EFL students, specifically Arab EFL students at tertiary level. Worth noting is the fact that reading habits of EFL students have received little attention and there is a scant research that surveys Arab EFL students’ recreational reading habits at the tertiary level (Al-Shorman and Bataineh, 2004; Al-Nafisah and Al-Shorman, 2011). Although the percentage of literacy in the Arab world in some countries is over 90 percent, for example, Jordan and Kuwait (UNESCO, 2008), a recent UN report states that an average Arab person reads only four pages a year (The Russian News and Information Agency, 2008). This is compared to eleven and eight books a year for the Americans and the British, respectively. It is assumed that educational institutions will equip students with not only English competency to read, but a lifelong desire to keep reading and learning. It has been found that it is not the goal of curricula nor the intent of many EFL students to be avid readers; their only concern is to build up functional language skills, vocabulary and grammar (Grabe, 2008). Thus, in the Arab world (specifically in Jordan), most of the empirical studies that have been identified (Al-Khresheh, 2010; AL-Khotaba, 2009; Al-Ali, 2006; Mukallaluh, 2003) focus predominantly on EFL students’ writing deficits, reading process errors and functional problems such as syntactic errors and cohesion problems. Mourtaga (2006) demonstrates that one of the reasons behind Arab EFL students’ weakness in reading is due to a lack of reading practise. Al-Shorman and Bataineh (2004) have indicated that most Jordanian EFL students consider improving other language skills as more important than improving reading. A large proportion of the literature has focused on the reading habits of school students compared to university students (Gallik, 1999; Mokhtari et al., 2009). Most of the time allocated for reading in classrooms concentrates on developing reading skills and neglects the development of reading for pleasure, putting high emphasis on the cognitive aspects and marginalizing other aspects. Reading is pivotal to knowledge acquisition and being a proficient reader is the key to success in all aspects of life (OECD, 2010b; Howard, 2011). Therefore, reading is not only important for developing language aptitude, but is also important in gaining a better understanding of the world. Recreational reading, as a type of reading, can be extended to encompass a variety of topics in both printed and digital text format. This type of reading is contingent on the reader’s preference of what, when and where to read, and does not bear any assessment other than the reader to him/herself (Richardson and Eccles, 2007). The benefits of recreational reading are beyond dispute. These benefits can be categorised into linguistic and non-linguistic aspects. At the linguistic level, recreational reading is important as it enhances one’s vocabulary, grammar and writing. Although reading instruction seemingly tackles those issues, however, according to Krashen this constitutes one approach to language learning. Krashen (1981), in his acquisition-learning hypothesis, postulates that there are two ways of developing linguistic aptitude: learning and acquisition. In the first, people learn the EBS 7,1 18
  • 3. language through drills and exercises, which represent the learning process of language rather than the acquisition. Krashen (1989) demonstrates that there are some limits for the acquisition of language obtained through conscious and deliberate learning, that is through repeated exercises. On the acquisition level, according to Krashen’s (1985) theory of second language acquisition, a person acquires the language on a subconscious level without even realizing it. Krashen (2004) adds that this kind of acquisition is contingent on a comprehensible input and recreational reading, being comprehensible, will yield more acquisition. Iftanti (2012) confirms this notion and states that “where there is little reading there will be little language learning”. Many studies (Lewis and Samuels, 2002; Samuels and Wu, 2004; Topping et al., 2007, 2008) show that an increase in academic achievement is the effect of recreational reading as opposed to reading done at schools or academic reading; supporting Krashen’s claim. Nagy (1988) says that producing more vocabulary is not the product of more instruction, but more reading. Babbitt-Bray et al. (2004) argue that when college students read more for pleasure, they are likely to increase their vocabulary and develop a sense of cultural literacy. The relationship of influence between recreational reading habits and academic achievement in general and reading achievement in particular is empirically proved through a plethora of literature, to name a few (Hughes-Hassell and Rodge, 2007; Pfost et al., 2010; Anderson et al., 1988; Kim, 2006; Lewis and Samuels, 2002; Topping et al., 2007, 2008; Hawkins, 2012). Furthermore, other researchers (Constantino, 1995; Gradman and Hanania, 1991; Constantino et al., 1997; Mason, 2006, 2007) have indicated that the volume of free reading is a strong predictor of TOEFL performance. Thus, many researchers support the argument of increased reading and exposure to print can contribute towards enhancement of learners’ abilities (Krashen, 1988; Stanovich, 1986; Cunningham and Stanovich, 2001). Pigada and Schmitt (2006), for example, conducted a study to see the effect of extensive reading on the acquisition of vocabulary, grammar and spelling. They found that improvement in spelling was the strongest. There were improvements in vocabulary and syntactic knowledge but these were not as strong as spelling. The study indicated that vocabulary attainment is possible from extensive reading. The benefits of recreational reading have been proven to extend far beyond the language development domain to accommodate personal and career development domains. Recreational reading enables the realization of people’s ambitions including educational and career aspirations and allows for a better reflection on one’s self and life (OECD, 2010b). Richardson and Eccles (2007) suggest that the advantages of voluntary reading transcend beyond educational attainment to impact the way adolescents understand themselves and the world. Howard (2011) asserts that pleasure reading plays a vital role in the development of academic performance, social engagement and personal values and identity. Recreational reading can also impact the attitudes of students towards reading. If a student reads his own choice of material, this will help develop a positive attitude towards reading and will motivate him/her to read academic materials (Booth, 2007). Furthermore, motivation is an important element in reading. According to Stanovich (1986), unmotivated people are unlikely to read. Reading has been attested to surpass its effect on individuals to nations’ economies. The OECD (2010a) have cited a study (Coulombe et al., 2004) which found that a nation’s reading literacy levels are a good predictor of economic prosperity and growth. English recreational reading habits 19
  • 4. Since there is scarcity in previous studies that tackled the reading habits of Arab EFL University students, the findings of this paper will be compared to other research that addressed EFL tertiary students. Mokhtari et al. (2009) and Gallik (1999) confirm the limited research on reading habits of college students, compared with those on younger students. In the identified studies, a common theme emerged where most of them have investigated time spent on reading, type of materials students read and whether there is a significant difference between males and females. In addition, some studies have elicited the relationship of influence between reading and other academic and linguistic benefits. Table I presents a summary of related research on the aforementioned studies and their contributions. 2. Purpose of the study Despite the attention levelled at the functionality of the reading skills in the Arab EFL research, relatively little research has empirically examined how much time Arab EFL university students spend on recreational reading in the English language. Thus, the purpose of this study is address this gap in the literature and set out to be a point of reference and comparison for future investigations about Arab EFL students’ English reading habits at the tertiary level. In support of this claim, Al-Nafisah and Al-Shorman (2011) attest that there is lack of research in this domain in the Middle East. Only a few studies have investigated Arab EFL students’ English reading habits: in Jordan (Al-Shorman and Bataineh, 2004) and in Saudi Arabia (Al-Nafisah and Al-Shorman, 2011). In both studies, the authors elicited the reading interests of Arab Reading interests Study Sample Most popular Least popular Time spent per week Blackwood et al. (1991) 333 Magazines Newspapers Comic books 2.5 hours Gallik (1999) 139 Magazines Letters/email/chatrooms Comic books 2 hours Al-Shorman and Bataineh (2004) 540 Short stories women magazines novels Economic books N/A Sheorey and Mokhtari (1994) 85 N/A N/A 4.75 hours Chen (2007) 62,198 Newspapers Magazines Prose/ poetry First year ss: 10.71 hours Third year ss: 12.74 hours Jolliffe and Harl (2008) 21 Emails, instant messages, and Facebook N/A Electronic: 6.3 hours Non-electronic: 2.8 hours Mokhtari et al. (2009) 539 N/A N/A 7.98 hours Al-Nafisah and Al-Shorman (2011) 460 Stories, adventure books, religious books, and magazines Economic books N/A Hawkins (2012) 119 Letters/email/Facebook Comic books, poetry During school: 4.95 During vacation: 9.42 Note: ss – students Table I. Related studies on recreational reading habits EBS 7,1 20
  • 5. EFL university students and analysed factors hindering such readings; nevertheless, they did not investigate the amount of time spent on reading. The study sought to answer the following research questions: RQ1. How much time do Arab EFL students spend on recreational reading? RQ2. Are there any differences between third and fourth year students on time spent on recreational reading and their frequency of reading interests? RQ3. What are the reading interests of Arab EFL students? RQ4. Is there a relationship between parents’ educational level and students’ recreational reading habits? RQ5. Is there a relationship between academic achievement (cumulative grade point average, CGPA) and recreational reading habits? 3. Method Data were gathered from 225 students from a public university in Amman, Jordan (i.e. the University of Jordan) using a questionnaire adapted from literature (Gallik, 1999). The first section of the questionnaire collected demographic information; the second section measured time spent on reading while classes were in session and during vacation and the last section elicited types of recreational reading done by the students. The population of this study is English major students enrolled in the University of Jordan (N ¼ 720). According to Sekaran (2003), the ratio of choosing a sample from the size of the population, where, if a population consists of (N ¼ 750) respondents, a sample of (S ¼ 254) respondents is needed. Therefore, the researchers have distributed 265 questionnaires personally and via instructors. A total number of 245 questionnaires were retained in which only 225 questionnaires were valid for analysis. The study utilized a non-probability sampling method, namely, purposive sampling. Only third and fourth year English major students were selected as the sample for this study. The rational for selecting this sample is that these students had already completed two to three years of English courses; hence, they are expected to have more exposure to reading English material and would have developed their reading habits more than first and second year students. Moreover, Al-Khasawneh (2010) and Rabab’ah (2005) assert that many Arab universities admit high school graduates into English studies programmes despite their low levels of proficiency in that language. Milroy and Gordon (2003) state that the strength of the conclusions derived from the sample results depend on how much the selected sample represents the larger population. Thus, the University of Jordan was selected due to its strategic position at the centre of the capital, and it encompasses students from all regions of the Kingdom, which provides good diversity and representation of the larger population. 3.1 Sample profile The sample of the study consists of 225 undergraduate students majoring in English language and literature at the University of Jordan. The demographic information of the respondents is presented in Table II. Females outnumbered males, which essentially reflects the gender ratio of English majors in Jordanian universities. The average age of the students is 21.03 years (SD ¼ 1.03). English recreational reading habits 21
  • 6. 4. Results The sections below present the findings of the study. The first section presents students’ time spent on recreational reading when classes are in session and during vacation. The second illustrates the difference between third and fourth year students. The third shows the effect of parents’ level of education on the students’ time spent on reading. The fourth shows the relationship between academic achievement and recreational reading habits. The final section presents students’ recreational reading interests. 4.1 Time spent on reading Results on the time spent on recreational reading when classes are in session per week are presented in Table III. A majority of the students (67.1 percent) reported reading two hours or less per week while classes are in session. This is expected due to classes work and assignments students have to do. A small percentage of students (24 percent) reported a reading time of 3-5 hours while only 9 percent of the students reported reading 6 hours or more. The average time spent on recreational reading when classes are in session is 2.15 hours (SD ¼ 0.99). On the other hand, the average time spent on recreational reading during vacation, is 2.82 hours (SD ¼ 1.18). A paired-samples t-test was conducted to compare the number of hours spent on recreational reading when classes are in sessions and during vacation. There was a significant difference in the time spent on recreational reading when classes are in session (M ¼ 2.15, SD ¼ 0.99) and during vacation (M ¼ 2.82, SD ¼ 1.18); t(224) ¼ 28.978, p ¼ 0.000. The results in Table IV show that less than half the students (41.8 percent) spend two hours or less each week on recreational reading during vacation. There is a slight increase in the category of 3-5 hours, with an increase of 4 percent in time spent on Frequency % Year level Third year 85 37.8 Fourth year 140 62.2 Gender Female 210 93.3 Male 15 6.7 Table II. Demographic profile of respondents Hours per week Frequency % Less than 1 hour 66 29.3 1-2 hours 85 37.8 3-5 hours 54 24.0 6-10 hours 15 6.7 Over 10 hours 5 2.2 Table III. Time spent on recreational reading when classes in session EBS 7,1 22
  • 7. recreational reading during vacation. Moreover, only less than a third of the total number of students (28.9 percent) reported reading more than six hours per week during vacation. 4.2 Differences between groups Since this study has no equal ratio between females and males (93 and 7 percent, respectively), the study investigated if there was any difference between third and fourth year students in the amount of time spent on recreational reading during classes and vacation. Due to the unequal proportion in the size and variance between fourth and third year students (N ¼ 140 and N ¼ 85, respectively), a random sample of cases has been employed using IBM SPSS software to select 85 random samples from fourth year students. Statistical analysis (i.e. independent sample t-test) was then used to compare the difference in time spent on recreational reading when classes are in session and during vacation between third and fourth year students. The results indicate a non-significant difference between the two groups in their time spent on recreational reading whether classes are in session or during vacation. The study also examined the difference in the frequency of reading of different types of reading interest between third and fourth years students. The results indicated that only novels had a significant difference in the frequency of reading between third year students (M ¼ 2.00, SD ¼ 0.655) and fourth year students (M ¼ 2.20, SD ¼ 0.691); (t(184) ¼ 22.175; p ¼ 0.031). 4.3 Students’ reading interests The students were asked to indicate their frequency of reading for the different types of recreational reading. As shown in Table V, emails/chats/Facebook is the most preferred type of recreational reading for Arab EFL tertiary students. More than half the students (57.3 percent) indicated that they always read emails, chat rooms and Facebook. Novels were the second preferred type of recreational reading (30.2 percent), indicating that students enjoy reading such leisure reading material. Newspapers and Never/rarely Sometimes Always Type N % N % N % Newspapers 55 24.4 111 49.3 59 26.3 Magazines 53 23.6 122 54.2 50 22.2 Emails/chat rooms/Facebook 30 13.3 66 29.3 129 57.3 Novels 40 17.8 117 52 68 30.2 Nonfiction books 105 46.7 81 36 39 17.3 Table V. Reading interests Hours per week Frequency % Less than 1 hour 33 14.7 1-2 hours 61 27.1 3-5 hours 66 29.3 6-10 hours 43 19.1 Over 10 hours 22 9.8 Table IV. Time spent on recreational reading during vacation English recreational reading habits 23
  • 8. magazines were less preferred, with 26 and 22 percent of the students reporting reading these types of recreational readings, respectively. Non-fiction books were the least favourite among students with 47 percent of students indicating that they never or rarely read this type of recreational reading. 4.4 The effects of parents’ education on students’ recreational reading habits The study also examined the influence of other possible factors on students’ recreational reading habits such as parents’ education. The students were asked to report their parents’ education level with options ranging from “High school or less” to “Master and above”. The results indicate a weak but significant relationship between educational degree of the father and the students’ reading habits when classes are in session and during vacation (Table VI). This relationship is stronger when students are on vacation. A paired-samples t-test was utilized to compare the level of education of the fathers and the mothers. The analysis showed a significant difference between the students’ fathers (M ¼ 2.52, SD ¼ 0.99) and mothers (M ¼ 2.04, SD ¼ 0.78) in the level of education; t(218) ¼ 2.471, p ¼ 0.014. The significant correlation of the fathers’ education with students’ reading habits is resultant of higher degrees of education. 4.5 Relationship between academic achievement (CGPA) and recreational reading habits Correlation analyses were utilized to investigate the relationship between CGPA and (1) time spent on recreational reading and (2) reading interests. First, the study examined the relationship between CGPA and time spent on reading when (a) classes are in session and (b) during vacation. On the one hand, the results indicate a non-significant relationship between CGPA and time spent on recreational reading when classes are in session. On the other hand, there is a positive significant relationship between CGPA and time spend on recreational reading during vacation (Table VII). However, this relationship is weak. The second analysis was test between CGPA and different reading interests. A Pearson product-moment correlation coefficient was used to assess the relationship between different types of recreational reading interests and CGPA. The analysis indicated that only novels had a small but significant positive correlation with CGPA; During classes During vacation CGPA 0.082 0.253 * * Note: Significant at: * *p , 0.01 (two-tailed) Table VII. Correlation between CGPA and time spent on recreational reading Time in school Time during vacation Fathers’ education level 0.153 * 0.222 * * Note: Significant at: *p , 0.05 and * *p , 0.01 (two-tailed) Table VI. Correlation between fathers’ education and students’ reading habits EBS 7,1 24
  • 9. r ¼ 0.159, n ¼ 225, p ¼ 0.017. The increase in frequency of reading novels correlated with the increase of CGPA of students. Other reading interests did not yield any significant correlation with CGPA. 5. Discussion and conclusions In this study, the primary goal was to investigate the amount of time and interests of the students’ reported recreational reading habits. The findings of this study reported the following: . the amount of time Arab EFL tertiary students (i.e. Jordanian English majors) spend on recreational reading when classes are in session and during vacation; . their recreational reading interests; and . the relationship between recreational reading habits and academic achievement. In addition, the study also investigated if other factors, (i.e. parents’ educational level) have an effect on the students’ reading habits. Furthermore, due to limited research on the recreational English reading habits of Arab EFL students, the results of this study is compared to other studies of recreational English reading habits of students from other contexts. There were no studies that investigated time spent on the recreational English reading of Arab EFL tertiary students; thus, studies from other contexts are used for reference and comparison. The findings of this study indicate that students spend an average time of 2.4 hours on recreational reading each week when classes are in session and during vacation. This is surprisingly similar to other previous research studies conducted with native speakers of English (Gallik, 1999; Blackwood et al., 1991). On the other hand, there were other studies that were inconsistent with the findings from this study. Chen (2007) found that the mean for the English recreational reading habits of Taiwanese first year students was 10.71 hours per week and third year students spent more time; an average of 12.74 hours per week. Jolliffe and Harl (2008) reported that students spend an average of 54 minutes a day (i.e. 6.3 hours a week) on electronic recreational reading (i.e. Facebook profiles, emails, internet sites, etc.) and 24 minutes a day (i.e. 2.8 hours per week) on non-electronic recreational reading (namely, magazines, books, newspapers, etc.). In contrast, Mokhtari et al. (2009) reported that the students in their study spent an average of 7.98 hours per week. The discrepancies could be due to using different time measures, that is, using time-diaries surveys (Hawkins, 2012) vs time blocks surveys and even using different time blocks Gallik (1999) vs Mokhtari et al. (2009). In addition, other studies have used hours per day (Chen, 2007) vs hours per week (Blackwood et al., 1991); meanwhile, others have used minutes per day (Jolliffe and Harl, 2008). In the current study, the difference between time spent on reading when classes are in session and during vacation is an indication that students spend more time on recreational reading when they do not have classes work. This change includes an increase of 20 percent in the over six hours time-frame category. This is consistent with previous research (Gallik, 1999) and provides evidence that students read more if they had free time; however this question was not asked in the questionnaire. The difference between amounts of reading time in the time frame of 3-6 hours was slightly changed with a 4 percent increase in favour of reading done during vacation. English recreational reading habits 25
  • 10. The results indicated a small correlation between the fathers’ education and the amount of time their children spend on recreational reading, whether classes are in session or during vacation. The mothers’ educational level, on the other hand, does not seem to have an effect on the recreational reading habits of students. According to the mean analysis, fathers’ educational level (M ¼ 2.52, SD ¼ 0.99) of the sample is much higher than that of the mothers (M ¼ 2.0444, SD ¼ 0.78). Higher educational level could have been presented as a form of an encouragement for students. Kamhieh et al. (2011) found a similar result where students’ parent encouragement – especially of their fathers’ – has helped them become avid readers. Nevertheless, in a study conducted by Blackwood et al. (1991), parents’ education and parents’ encouragement did not yield any significant effect on students’ recreational reading habits. Thus, more scrutiny should be invested with personal interviews on parents’ encouragement and support concerning recreational reading engagement. The students’ top preference for recreational reading in this study is email/chat rooms/Facebook, followed by novels and newspapers. On the global level, there were similar findings in part with those of Gallik’s (1999) study in which letters/email/chat rooms were the second most preferred type of recreational reading. Other studies (Blackwoodetal., 1991), magazineswerethe firstchoice andnewspaperscamesecond. Itis apparent that with the increase in time, the popularity of technology-related sources is increasing. According to Gambrell (2005), computers and the internet have changed the culture of reading and the quest for information has become at the fingertips of students. For instance, a recent study (Hawkins, 2012) has found that letters/email/Facebook are the most preferred reading type among college students. Thus, in Gallik’s (1999) and Blackwood et al.’s (1991) studies, technology and the internet did not have the current impact on people’s lives, with the abundance of information and ease of access, particularly of the social media. In this regard, Kabilan et al. (2010) investigated the perceptions of university students about Facebook as a supplementary environment to enhance learning English. The study found that students perceived Facebook as useful environment to facilitate learning English. The significant correlation between novels and CGPA of students seems logical since novels are the only reading interest related to their major, i.e. English language and literature. However, it is interesting that only related quality reading has the only effect on CGPA of students, although reading texts on email/chat/Facebook has been reported by student to be the most frequent. On the local Arab EFL context, the current study shares results with research conducted by Al-Shorman and Bataineh (2004) who explored the reading interests of Jordanian university EFL students. A wide range of reading interests are common such as magazines, novels and newspapers. However, categorization of reading materials is more detailed in Al-Shorman and Bataineh’s (2004) study compared to this study, where this study has only five major categories compared to the 35 detailed categories (e.g. science magazines, sports magazines, etc.). This has made the comparison equivocal. 6. Limitations of the study This study utilized a self-reported questionnaire with fixed answer options about time spent on recreational reading using blocks of time which is relatively convenient EBS 7,1 26
  • 11. but limits the amount of data. However, using methods like time diaries or reading journals would provide more complete and accurate data. Furthermore, although the study sample involved Arab English majors at the University of Jordan, the findings might not be applicable for other Arab EFL college students. This study has no conclusions or results on the differences between genders, as the ratio of females and males in the population limits any equal representation. 7. Implications of findings Since there is a plethora of literature that attest to the benefits of recreational reading, educators and policy makers should invest great amount of efforts to encourage such activity in schools and universities. For example, as this study found that the preferred type of reading is emails/chatrooms/Facebook; educators may try to promote recreational reading via pages and groups on Facebook. The study also highlighted the role of parents educational level, particularly of the fathers’, in promoting reading and playing an integral part influencing their children. Therefore, efforts should also be directed towards educating parents about their roles as a major influence on their children’s lives and reading habits. The study revealed that time spent on recreational reading is relatively low in both situations; vacation and when classes are in session. There should be more effort to incorporate more materials for recreational reading at the university and create voluntary programmes or book clubs during vacations. It is recommended that policy makers and educators use email/chatrooms/Facebook to promote recreational reading since they are the preferred medium for reading among Arab EFL tertiary students. Moreover, the study suggests further recommendations for future research related to Arab EFL reading habits. First, future research comparing the reading habits of students in both English and Arabic can provide significant contribution to the literature. This study has only studied the influence of parents’ educational level on the students’ time spent on English recreational reading. Therefore, further investigation of parents’ influence and encouragement is of great importance; such as being read to at younger ages, family visits to the library and bookshops, or family book discussions which may yield more information on parents’ influence. Future research should also try to compare the recreational reading of Arab EFL college students to other recreational activities they engage in and investigate whether these activities had an impact or effect on their recreational reading. In addition, an investigation of other possible factors affecting time spent on recreational readings such as attitudes, social influence and linguistic control over the language may yield more understanding and pave the way for practical interventions to enhance the reading habits of Arab EFL tertiary students. Since this study utilizes only the quantitative approach, it is recommended that future research use a mixed method design, namely; sequential explanatory design. This design, which uses both quantitative and qualitative methods, will yield more and elaborative data and results. The notion that Arab students do not read for pleasure is clearly misunderstood. However, based on the similarities of this study to other previous studies, there must be more investigations on the reasons why Arab EFL tertiary students do not invest more time on recreational reading. English recreational reading habits 27
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  • 15. Topping, K.J., Samuels, J. and Paul, T. (2008), “Independent reading: the relationship of challenge, non-fiction and gender to achievement”, British Educational Research Journal, Vol. 34, pp. 505-524. UNESCO (2008), “Regional overview: Arab States”, EFA Global Monitoring Report, UNESCO, Paris. Van Schooten, E. and De Glopper, K. (2002), “The relation between attitude toward reading adolescent literature and literary reading behavior”, Poetics, Vol. 30, pp. 169-194. About the authors Mohammad N. Khreisat is a doctoral student at the English Language Studies Section, School of Humanities in Universiti Sains Malaysia. His research interest includes literacy, critical literacy, Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and ICT in language learning and teaching. Sarjit Kaur (PhD) is an Associate Professor at the English Language Studies Section, School of Humanities in Universiti Sains Malaysia. Widely published, her research interests include English for Specific Purposes (ESP), Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL), oral communication, learner autonomy, multiliteracies and policy research in higher education. (The Appendix follows overleaf.) English recreational reading habits 31 To purchase reprints of this article please e-mail: Or visit our web site for further details:
  • 16. Appendix. Questionnaire A. Demographic Information • Your Gender : 1. Male 2. Female • Your Age : _____________ Years • Year Level : 1. Third 2. Fourth • University ID # : ________________________ • GPA : 1. (less than 2.0) 2. (2.1 to 2.5) 3. ( 2.6 to 3.0) 4. (3.1 to 3.5) 5. (Above 3.6 ) • Parent Education: Father: 1. Others (High school or less) 2. Diploma 3. First Degree (Bachelors) 4. Masters and above Mother: 1. Others (High school or less) 2. Diploma 3. First Degree (Bachelors) 4. Masters and above B. Recreational Reading Habits: 1) Please indicate the amount of time you spend each week on recreational reading (not required for classes) WHEN CLASSES ARE IN SESSION. 1. (Less than 1 hour) 2. (1-2 hours) 3. (3-5 hours) 4. (6-10 hours) 5. (Over10 hours) 1. (Less than 1 hour) 2. (1-2 hours) 3. (3-5 hours) 4. (6-10 hours) 5. (Over10 hours) 2) Please indicate the amount of time you spend each week on recreational reading (not required for classes) DURING VACATIONS. 3. Please indicate how often you read each of the following: Never/Rarely Sometimes Always Newspaper Magazines E-mail/chatroom/Facebook Novels Nonfiction books ( Biography, Self-help, etc) . EBS 7,1 32