The importance of reading on teaching and learning


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The importance of reading on teaching and learning

  1. 1. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010   Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION What are current problems of Vietnamese students on learning English? In the condition that our educational system is in chaos and crisis than ever and our typical learning style – teacher-oriented method, book-centered method – for thousands of year, undoubtedly, the learners are a bit passive. They receive and wait for what the teacher gives them. That sharpens learners’ attitudes from generation to generation. Learners much or less have a tendency to rely on the teachers. As Prof. Hoàng Tụy, our education system is on the crisis. For the current fact in Vietnamese education system, students usually think that studying is to pass the exams, getting some certificates or degrees. As the bitter truth, multiple-choice method is nationwide dominant one. What students actually learn is not an actual language but skills or tips to deal with the test. Even though teachers with the attention to apply new methods also have to consider whether it should be used or not, whether it meets students’ expectation – passing the exam. The requirements have been rooted into students’ minds for a long time until it shaped a habit. Furthermore, our government and Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) put high requirement on the degrees or certificates. Those above lead to the sad reality in education nowadays. There is an alarming increase in the number of learners’ “illusory learning” (Prof. Hoàng Tụy) style. Therefore, it should be a necessity for innovation in education in different aspects. It’s the need to generate measures that can lower learners’ anxiety. This leads to the concept of “weight exercise and light reading” teaching model. Learning English is a process of heavy practice to memorize vocabulary, a number of grammar rules. Most the time in the class used for practice these activities. Generally, proficiency is still emphasized more heavily than performance. In Vietnamese education, students are quite familiar with “bottom-up” process. It sounds like students are put into a forest, finding out different kinds of trees there; once they get out that forest, they have no idea about its location, type of the forest, and things like that. In the mean time, majority of learners who have learned English since the sixth grade, still feel that their English is very poor .What is worse, they cannot express their thought even they have done the test excellently. And the question “how to learn English well?” is asked more often than ever. Most of English learners find it difficult not only in how to remember vocabulary but also how to apply it in practice. Since they most try to remember it separately with the context, repeating and writing the words for thousands times. Some can remember the words, some cannot. Even those who remember still find it difficult in applying into speaking and writing. They don’t know where they put the words correctly, whether it’s appropriate to put them there, sometimes using the wrong words just because they roughly translate them from mother tongue into target language. Vietnamese students are good at 1  Thao Le Thanh  
  2. 2. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010    grasping grammar structures. However, it seems too difficult for them to apply those in speaking and writing since what they are taught is concrete and separated from the broader context. The nature of grammatical structures is sometimes overlapped, that leads to confusion among learners. It is found that learners have difficulty in writing as well. Their compositions simply just look like a combination of words and sentences. They usually use the wrong words as well as use words repeatedly just simply because their range and volume of English is still in a small scope. For those reasons above, it’s a necessity to find a perfect way that can solve all the problems English learners are facing. According to Krashen (1993), reading is extremely important in learning English. He emphasizes reading is the only way to “become a good reader, develop a good writing style, an adequate vocabulary, advanced grammar”, and the only way to “become a good speller”.Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW I. Definition of Reading Reading has been defined as “the meaningful interpretation of written or printed verbal symbols” and “a result of interaction between the perception of graphic symbols that represent language and the reader’s language skills, cognitive skill, and knowledge of the world.” (Albert J. Harris and Edward R. Sipay, 1985). In addition, James Paul Gee (2008, p.45) states that “literacy practices are almost always fully integrated with, interwoven into, constituted as part of, the very texture of wider practices that involve talk, interaction, values, and beliefs.” In other words, reading is the process of decoding graphic symbols involving talking, thinking, interacting, valuing, integrating skills, and believing. It is also the process of interaction between the text and our previous knowledge. II. Types of Reading: There Are Two Types of Reading 1. Intensive reading (IR): 1.1 What is intensive reading? “Intensive” means something “deep” or “intense”. In IR, students go slowly and carefully to understand every detail in the text. In the words of a Chinese professor of English, Xu Guozhang, there are a lot of items in English attract students when students read intensively: from word form to phrasal verb, from preposition to synonym and antonym and even suffixes and prefixes are also worth studying. This easily leads to the fact of trying to figure out exactly the meaning of each word by looking up the dictionary. Text for students practice are often in form of distinguish the main idea from the detail, finding pronoun references or even 2  Thao Le Thanh  
  3. 3. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010    guessing the meaning of unknown words (Richard R., 1997). These forms of practices are usually recognized in IELTS test. 1.2 Why ESL students read intensively? Xu Guozhang (2009) stated that IR “lays down a solid foundation in English”. It provides learners vocabulary, grammar points, even idioms or proverbs. Brown (2007) completely agreed with the idea: this is a classroom-oriented activity in which linguistic or semantic detail of a passage is more focused which benefits first learners. Because of its basic characteristic, it basically develops learners other skills in studying English, too. 2. Extensive reading (ER): 2.1 What is extensive reading? While IR plays a crucial role in developing learners’ reading skill, IR itself restrain students’ fluency and confidence since it slows speed and allows students to have a pause too many times to look up the new words in the dictionary to meet a better understanding of grammar and vocabulary. (Julian B. and Richard R., 1997). For this reason, ER calls for many researchers’ attention and is always appreciated as well as encouraged in reading teaching and learning. In the words of Allan M. (2008), ER allows students to freely choose various kinds of text types and topics interested to them. In other words, their reading usually aims at pleasure, information and knowledge. There are no or just few exercises or tasks followed. Using dictionary is, of course, not to keep the reading speed smooth and fast. Allan continued with the role of teacher in teaching students ER as a model and more important, teacher needs to give students a clear explanation about the goal and procedure to make sure they are in the right track. Julian B. and Richard R. (1997) supported those ideas that in ER, readers are more concerned with the meaning of the text than the meaning of individual words. 2.2 Why do ESL students read extensively? Freely choosing favorite materials to read as much as possible is a good way, according to Julian B. and Richard R. (1997), to develop a “taste” for foreign language reading. In this case, reading to them is very natural and autonomous. They read willingly and certainly, they can “visualize” and “interpret” what they read in their own way (Allan M., 2009). In this way, readers even consciously or unconsciously, they open wide their knowledge about everything in the world, especially, the culture. This knowledge would be the idea resources for learners to write, speak and then, turning back, it is the background knowledge to read other materials. Krashen (2004) believed that reading as much as possible is a powerful tool to impetus reading skill, writing style, vocabulary and even grammar as well as spelling. This 3  Thao Le Thanh  
  4. 4. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010    is actually a process of increasing second language competence which, as Grabe (1991) mentioned, helps learners to boost learners’ confidence with extended texts and as Allan M. (2009), to create and sustain motivation to further reading. If traditional reading makes students feel bored, now, ER makes them becomes eager readers. (Mason and Krashen, 1997). Another benefit of ER is to make students recognize and exploit redundant elements in reading texts. According to Timoth B. (1998), word by word reading may lead to overloading to successfully interpret the message. Therefore Kalb (1986) always appreciated ER because of its minimizing textual redundancy to help students read faster and get more useful information. We can see that both IR and ER provide students good opportunities to read. ER, nevertheless, is much more beneficial due to its power to go beyond what is called “read” only. Fascinating features are there, but applying ER in teaching and learning is not easy at all. 2.3 The influence of educational system in Vietnam on applying extensive reading: To have a deeper understanding about teaching and learning in Vietnam toward ER, it’s necessary to have an overview on education system in Vietnam. Education in Vietnam centralizes the traditional view of teacher-student relationship which supports teacher-centered methods and where structured curriculum dominates. (Le V. 2000). Due to the limit of time, the learning environment focuses on the exams. According to Nguyen (2002), “This kind of exam-oriented style strongly affects learners’ motivation and learning styles”. Choosing reading strategies and reading materials, therefore, mostly supply the requirements of nation grammar-based examinations. (Liem D. 2006). It is obviously that there is no time for applying ER in class. One more reason makes IR more popularly used not only in Vietnam, but also in other educational system is that it helps to eliminate the gap between various-level students in class. (Joseph K, n.d). In the class, there is always diversity among students. Applying IR method is also an effective way to make many “not good” students not feel that they are “left behind”. For many obstacles, ER is now still rarely used, especially, in Vietnam. 4  Thao Le Thanh  
  5. 5. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010    III. The importance of Reading to English Learners To pronunciation improvement Reading aloud helps learners learn better, especially pronunciation. Whisper reading can help learners understand the conceptual information and inspire their imagination as well as guessing. Both types of reading are very useful for learners. Determining when we should use intensive and extensive or combination of both is really important. To vocabulary enrichment Michael P. Critchley pointed out the importance of reading on vocabulary acquisition. He also showed out disadvantages of detextualization the word lists. A numbers of educational researchers admitted that there is a strong correlation between reading and academic success. In fact, through reading, readers gain a vast vocabulary and essential knowledge, structures of individual sentence as well as a piece of writing. Therefore, developing reading competence is essential for academic achievement (Paul Shoebottom). To spelling capability There are numbers of research about the correlation between reading and spelling. Obviously, the more students have chance to interact and see the language, the better they remember the words. According to Susan Jones (2009), “the correlation between spelling and reading comprehension is because both depend on a common denominator: proficiency with language. The more deeply and thoroughly a student knows a word, the more likely he or she is to recognize it, spell it, define it, and use it appropriately in speech and writing.” For relaxation Reading is a kind of relaxation, reading on the bus, while waiting, etc. Therefore, it’s necessary but not very easy to get in the habit of reading. Michele Miller (2004) carried a small research at Pasco High School about reading and relaxation and found that it’s helpful for students to read just for relaxation in a student coffee shop. There are a lot of positive responses to this program. To readers’ spiritual development According to Jennifer L. Plaskota, reading has a contribution in developing students’ spirituality in Beyond Literacy: the Influence of Reading and Stories on Children’s Spiritual Formation. It’s no doubt that every reading text helps to enrich our knowledge as well as moral lessons underneath the words. Therefore, besides grasping words, grammar, writing format, readers also learn a lot from the texts. However, reading usually stops at the level of analyzing the surface structures – vocabulary, grammar points and translation, and there is a little attention on discovering what embedded in it. Lisa Davis (2005) stated that “reading is the foundation for developing an understanding of conceptual information and it sparks imagination”. In fact, reading plays a not less important role in developing human’s brains. 5  Thao Le Thanh  
  6. 6. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010    For enhancement writing skill It’s no wonder that reading and writing are the mutual interactive skills. There is a close relationship between reading and writing format. The more they read, the better their writing ability is and the more skillful in using words in writing is. To continuously knowledge updating The habit of reading can add to the information available on various topics. It also helps the readers to stay in-touch with contemporary information and makes them sensitive to global issues and helps them catch in hand what is going on around them. Generally, reading texts are good sources and wealth choices for self improvement and motivation. They have a great contribution towards proficient achievement. In addition, they are informational and reliable for what we may query for a long time without satisfactory answers. IV. Why do teachers continue to use so many questions, activities, etc. instead of allowing students to ‘just read’? Basing slightly on what Prof. Maley A. (2009) stated in his article” Extensive reading: why it is good for our students…and for us”, we find out a part of explanation on the why: teachers do not use extensive reading more often because of the insufficient time, the lack of resources, the unavailability of reading-materials, the extensive reading not linked to the syllabus and the examination, the lack of understanding of ER and its benefits, the downward pressure on teachers to conform to the syllabi and the textbooks , and resistance from teachers - who find it impossible to stop teaching and to allow learning to take place. From the perspective of Castiglioni M. (November, 2002), Working with classroom readers, it is no doubt that extensive reading can be more inspiring and engaging than standard approaches once being combined with activities and questions. It may simply become a repetition of what is written in the book thanks to answering questions. “Engagement” in activities helps learners become better readers. Students, by consequence, can obtain ability in “dealing with the organization of ideas: the know-how to distinguish a main idea from a secondary one”. They can be well-aware of the connections between ideas at paragraph and text level. Standard approach – solely Extensive Reading, from a certain extent, can have negative effects on learning. In addition, being well-acknowledged with what Dick Allwright (1984, p.9) used to say” the importance of interaction is not simply that it creates learning opportunities, it is that it constitutes learning itself”, students can enhance their reading as well as learning with sole regard to the teachers’ initiation – asking questions. Imagine that our government and MOET one day decide “Extensive Reading” to become an official 6  Thao Le Thanh  
  7. 7. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010    subject in every schooling system. Students do nothing but reading. They can choose to read a lot of topics which are of their great interests. Do you think that they will carry out correctly the reading in light of extensiveness? There seems little doubt that, according to Prof. Maley A. (2008) in “Extensive Reading: Maid in Waiting”, “what is labeled as ER is, in fact, a version of Intensive Reading, where the value of the text as reading material is subordinated to its use as an exemplar of grammatical lexical forms”. As a matter of fact, Vietnamese learners, for thousands of year, are little passive. Teachers are regarded as respectable authorities and students are taught to be quiet listeners. The teachers wonder whether students can enhance their sense of activeness in learning if they do not continue to use many questions, activities to provoke the brainstorming of their students. Once they use questions, it helps draw students’ attention more into reading. Students can implicitly become panoramic image viewer of what is going on. They, besides, strongly believe that “negotiation facilitates acquisition because it connects input, internal learner capacities, particularly selective attention, and output in productive ways" (Long 1996, pp. 451-2).” In association with the image of “magpie”, whenever we apply something, we should have a sense of selectivity on target significance because magpie, as we know, is a white and black bird which likes to pick up everything shining and interesting. Therefore, it is of great necessity to consider whether or not we – teachers should integrate activities and questions into reading. The decision is obviously depended on each individual.Chapter 3: PEDALOGICAL IMPLICATIONS As we know, reading plays a very important role on language learning development. It not only helps develop the language skills but also have a contribution on cognitive and spiritual development. Therefore, it’s necessary to exploit reading in language learning process. There are some primary pedagogical implements resulted from above: • Combine the two types of reading in order to get the highest result. Teachers should be flexible in choosing the method that best supports their teaching. • Integrate Extensive reading with activities and questions to make sure that students grasp the ideas of the text. • Have a great consideration on rearranging time so as to both meet the requirement of testing system and have time for reading. • Assign timed reading based on the levels of students. Inappropriate assigned time may cause boredom and discouragement among students. Jeremy Browning gave some suggestions on how to time reading in “Why Teachers Should Use Timed Reading in ESL Classes” • Allow students to freely choose the materials they like to read. 7  Thao Le Thanh  
  8. 8. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010    • Don’t test isolated items. In other words, teachers don’t try to separate grammar and vocabulary from the context. Teachers should be innovative in how to test and how to motivate them through each test.Chapter 4: DESCRIPTION OF BRIEF ACTION PLAN Knowing the importance of reading on learning a language, teachers should themselves get in the habits of reading as models. In other words, teachers want their students get in the habits of reading; they have to initially set an example for their students. Reading aloud can help to encourage students’ desire on reading. There should have a skillful combination between the two kinds of reading in order to get the high result. In the hope of developing reading motivation, some suggestions are given: • In order to evoke their reading interest, teachers should have a great consideration on choosing reading materials with care of students’ level, age range, English background, topical knowledge, interest, gender, religion, etc. Learners, in addition, are required to find materials that interest them from magazines, web pages, newspapers, brochures or whatever. It can become their weekly task to find one article which is of their real regard; which they can read comfortably and rationally. • It’s necessary to assign timed reading and this depends closely on the individuality. There should have some rewards for this as well. • If possible, simplification is recommended. With the effort to encourage them to read without interference, texts should be simplified appropriately to students’ levels. Furthermore, redesigning the text is highly appreciated. With the powerful assistance from Internet, teachers can make their texts more attractive, vivid and comprehensible by illustrations. • Teachers should integrate reading with listening. There are varieties of readings texts with audio included. This makes students get familiar with the sounds and have the connection between words and its sounds. Moreover, reading aloud is strongly suggested for children. It also helps to get children’s attention and let them be familiar with the connection between sounds and written forms. • It’s necessary to apply summarizing or paraphrasing after reading. This can help students develop their speaking skill as well as gain the knowledge for their own. Stopping at understanding is not enough, they may forget later. However, they can restate the reading contain by using their memories and their own words. At that time, knowledge from the books is theirs. Summarizing and paraphrasing also contribute to develop logical thinking among students. 8  Thao Le Thanh  
  9. 9. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010    • Teachers should encourage learners to read as much and continuous as possible. Teachers have to monitor their learners’ reading skill, the speed, the range and the volume of English materials assigned. In order to motivate their reading habits, teachers have to work hard in selecting comprehensible input. There are some suggestions for a comprehensible input. First, teachers should know clearly about the subjects, such as their knowledge, English background, interests, etc. then, deciding how to redesign, simplify and use illustration the text for individual differences. • In order to not create any interference while reading, it’s suggested that the text should be lower level of difficulty (i-1) in the first stages. The interference such as vocabulary, strange structures, etc. may cause boredom or discouragement. Increasingly, the level of difficulty is slightly promoted by time. After getting familiar with and interested in reading, the formula i+1 is applied. • Teachers do not ask them to translate as well as translating for them. It’s a good idea for them to state the theme, the main ideas, and if possible what they can learn from that text. • For reading development purpose, making enough conditions for reading. It’s strongly suggested that there should have a comfortable, spacious and inspiring place for students to come. Here they can find different kinds of interesting and illustrative stories and books ranged in specific locations for specific levels. Choosing time and place to read also have an important role on reading motivation. Don’t forget to give them opportunities in choosing the text they feel like to read. • Slogans, famous maxims and proverbs and the like are hung everywhere in schools and classes. This must be in striking displays so as to attract students’ attention towards reading. It helps to shape their reading habits. • Teacher should play a role as a guidance to help them how to explore their purposes on reading. In order to motivate students’ interest in reading, it’s vital for students to set up their purposes before reading and a need of teacher’s guiding. Teachers have responsibilities for helping them to clarify their purposes. Since books are informative resources for different purposes such as for relaxation or for fun, for getting knowledge and the like. Therefore, teacher’s guiding is very important in helping them to know and determine purposes. Besides, with teachers’ guiding – showing them how to read effectively, they will have a clear direction on what they are doing. With this intention, skimming and scanning are recommended, where they can get the main ideas, etc. • Teachers should help them how to use a dictionary if necessary effectively. There some words having a great influence on understanding the meaning of the text; it’s necessary to look them up in dictionary. However, how to use a dictionary more effectively is also a consideration. Using the “right” dictionary not only replies to their uncertainty but also helps them in vocabulary improvement. 9  Thao Le Thanh  
  10. 10. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010    • In compliance with the advice of Waring R. (2003), Getting an Extensive Reading Program going, the learners also need to know the goals of the ER program; when they have to return books; and how much they need to read either by number of books or page targets. They must be well-recognized of how many books they can borrow; how their reading will be evaluated; and when they have access to the library. They should identify whether they have to follow up exercises or write reports and the like. • Last but not less, skillful combining intensive and extensive reading is crucial. In consideration on the interference on extensive reading such as educational system, intensive is another choice. However, reading skill can only develop required a continuous process. This means that students not only read in but also out of class. Once again, timing reading play important role on students’ achievement. Therefore, assigned reading shouldn’t be too long as well as too short. Wrong timed reading may leads to bad effect.Chapter 5: CONCLUSION After a long way of discovering the significance of ER, there is no deny of its benefits to all teachers and students in terms of widening background knowledge, linguistic competence and even having an important influence on learning other skills such as: listening, reading and especially, writing skill. Facing to the restraint of extensive reading application in educational system, we should take into account that it’s an ideal time for schools to start introducing ER even in the very first levels to set up a habit of reading as much as possible and become a skillful reader when they are at high levels. This does not mean that we disclaim the role of intensive reading which provides learners the foundation to access the level of “fast and much” reading to get the most information. Taking the role of language educators, we need to be pioneers to be fully aware of reading’s significance in general and extensive reading, in particular. Why don’t we, in other words, spend much time on reading and practice reading as much as possible to become models for our students? 10  Thao Le Thanh  
  11. 11. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010   Reference: Albert J. Harris and Edward R. Sipay, 1985. How to Increase Reading Ability: A Guide to Developmental and Remedial MethodsBrown, R. V. 2007. Extensive Reading in Action. Seinan University, Fukuoka, Japan.Allwright, R.L., 1981. The importance of interaction in classroom language learning. Applied Linguistics 5, 156 – 71.Canagarajah, 1999. Resisting linguistic Imperialism in English Teaching, Oxford: Oxford University Press.Castiglioni M., November, 2002. Working with classroom readers. Retrieved on September 23, 2010 from the website of BBC: http://, R. and J. Bamford, 1988. Extensive Reading in the Second Language Classroom. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, U.K.Day, R. and Banford, J., 1997. Extensive Reading: What Is It? Why Bother? The Language Teacher Online. Available:, W., 1991. Current Developments in Second Language Reading Research. TESOL Quarterly 25/3: 375-406.Hoang Tuy from GD/Can_benh_tham_can_co_de_giao_duc/James Paul Gee, 2008. Social Linguistics and Literacies: ideology in discourses 11  Thao Le Thanh  
  12. 12. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010   Jennifer L. Plaskota, 2008. Beyond Literacy: the Influence of Reading and Stories on Children’s Spiritual FormationJeremy Browning, IX (6), 2003. “Why Teachers Should Use Timed Reading in ESL Classes”Kalb, G., 1986. Teaching of Extensive Reading in English Instruction at the Senior Gymnasium Level. Die Neueren Sprachen, 85, (pp 420-430).Krashen, S., 2004. The Power of Reading. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.Lisa Divis, 2005. The Power of ReadingLe, C., 1999. Language and Vietnamese Pedagogical Contexts. Available online at: DoHuy obtained an MA in Applied Linguistics from KMUTT in 2006. He teaches EFL courses for undergraduate students at SaigonTech in Saigon, Vietnam. His research interests involve reading in all fields, communicative language teaching, ESP course design, material development and teacher development.Long M., 1996. The Interaction Hypothesis: What it is and How it Naturally Occurs in the ESL Classroom. Retrieved on September 25, 2010 from the website of “Associatedcontent”: mlMaley, Alan, 2008. ‘Extensive Reading: Maid in Waiting’ in B. Tomlinson (ed) English Language LearningMaley, Alan, December, 2009. “Extensive reading: why it is good for our students… and for us.” Retrieved on September 25, 2010 from the website of British Council: students%E2%80%A6-us?page=2 12  Thao Le Thanh  
  13. 13. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010   Maley, A., 2008. ‘Extensive Reading: Maid in Waiting’ in B. Tomlinson (ed) English Language Learning Materials: a critical review. London/New York: Continuum p133-156Mason, B. & Krashen, S., 1997. Extensive reading in English as a foreign language. B System, 25, 91-102.Michael P. Critchley, 1998. Reading to Learn: Pedagogical Implications of Vocabulary ResearchMichele Miller, 2004. Reading and Relaxation. Shoebottom, 1996-2007. The Importance of Reading R. Day,Julian Bamford. Extensive Reading in the Second Language ClassroomSusan Jones, 2009. Importance of Spelling. R., 2003. Getting an Extensive Reading Program going, Retrieved on September 25, 2010 from the website of Rob Waring’s Extensive Reading: 13  Thao Le Thanh