Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Reading Extensively


Extensive Reading

“What music is to the spirit, reading is to the mind. Reading challenges, empowers,
bewitches, enriches. We perceive little black marks on white paper or a PC screen and they move us to tears, open up our lives to new insights and understandings, inspire us, organize our existences and connect us with all creation.”

“What is reading then? The answer is not simple, as the act of reading is variable, not
absolute. In its most general modern definition, reading is of course the ability to make sense of written or printed symbols. The reader ‘uses the symbols to guide the recovery of information from his or her memory and subsequently uses this information to construct a plausible interpretation of the writer’s message.’”
(S. R. Fischer’s A History of Reading are taken from those that Maria Popova’s  refers to in brain pickings at http://www.brainpickings.org/2012/10/26/a-history-of-reading/)
  
1.1 Introduction
In this Chapter, extensive reading (here after ER will be used) is looked at from the point of view of a formal system of education in a non-native environment. So the discussion here treats what happens or what should be happening in the classroom. As for extensive reading as an informal reading habit, it is something that the educated blend and stretch their formal-education-induced ER into their future lives for profit (in terms of  gaining knowledge) alone or pleasure alone or both. 

1.2 Background
Here we take a brief look at the histories of reading and extensive reading. The bibliography provides relevant sources as references. 

1.2.1 History of teaching reading
Reading as a skill developed only after humans began to express themselves through symbols—caricatures, figures and much later through language in its written form. It started with a syllabary alphabet adopted by the Greeks that was the beginning of Western alphabet  For the Greeks and the Romans, reading was incidental to the real education of rhetoric, physical fitness and codes of conduct, and there is evidence that the Celts regarded the ability as unmanly. All early reading involved very simple code recognition and was invariably task-oriented such as accounting, storage and transport with names, dates and places.

The reading method was ‘alphabetic’. Oral reading was usual and silent reading was unheard of  and became known only after mass production of books happened through the printing press but recognition and teaching of reading as a special skill did not occur until the 20th century. Reading in the vernacular began after the Reformation when the Bible was translated and published.

Till the late 19th century, synthetic phonics approach, which converted letters into sounds and then blended the sounds, still dominated the early reading scene in schools, drills and practice continued after the primer level, but moved from letter names and sounds into other aspects of the language arts, including grammar, rhetoric, and elocution.Towards the end of the century, it was felt that meaning and understanding were important, and sentence-method and story-method began to be used as part of reading instruction. Friedrich Gedike (1754-1803), Ernst Trall, Jean Jacotot (1790-1840), John Keagy (1792-1837), Farnham in 1881 were advocates of the whole sentence method. Also silent reading replaced oral reading.

Of course there were hand-written manuscripts and there were libraries too but they were not for the masses. Reading as an activity, if only to read religious books, evolved with the advent of printing press, as books began to roll off the machines.  In England, right from 600 A.D. down to today, reading has been part of formal system of school and college education initially to read religious books and as time progressed to read books written to teach English, history, geography and science.  
The first thirty-five years of the 20th century witnessed several reforms taking place: from words to reading, meaning-based a whole sentence approach, assessment of reading performance, text difficulty, readiness emerging as important research areas, reading as a skill, remediation. The next thirty-five years saw several things happening: word recognition, comprehension and interpretation as goals, context-based phonics instruction, children to be put into small groups, children still passive recipients, silent reading becoming important. The last thirty years witnessed considerably useful contributions made to teaching reading through fields other than education: linguistics--no need to teach pronunciation rules, psycholinguistics—learning to read from reading, deriving meaning from orthographic, semantic, syntactic cues rather than visual cues, sociolinguistics—reading errors to be seen as linguistic differences, not linguistic deficits, cognitive psychology—schema theory, literary theory—meaning creation lying in the transaction between the reader and the written piece, literature-based reading—gains to be had from getting children to read literary pieces.

ER became part of the English curriculum through supplementary readers or prescribed non-detailed texts. And the general reading public must have also indulged in extensive reading turning the pages of printed literary works. Today of course there is books galore—both fiction and non-fiction, and e-books. There are also a lot of books and journals available to enable professionals in various knowledge fields to absorb information.  

1.2.2 History of extensive reading
Kelly credits Harold Palmer with first applying the term extensive reading in foreign language pedagogy. By extensive reading, Palmer meant reading book after book rapidly. In contrast, intensive reading meant taking a text and studying it.

Evidence for interest in extensive reading can be seen in the summaries of articles, books and studies/investigations that follow. The next four paragraphs contain the essence as drawn from Jacobs’ Annotated bibliography.

Almost all investigators who have conducted experiments to teach German, French, Spanish and English to speakers of other languages are in favour of ER as an essential component of foreign language learning. They recommend class and school libraries with graded readers, literary works, magazines, newspapers. They believe that ER can support vocabulary acquisition, grammar learning and reading skills as well. But opinion is divided about the supremacy of ER over intensive reading and vice versa and whether ER is conducive to a cultural understanding.  

Readers may find this interesting: Crossley, S. A., Louwerse, M. M., McCarthy, P. M. & McNamara, D. S.’s (2007) A linguistic analysis of simplified and authentic texts published in Modern Language Journal, 91 (1), 15—30 will be a good guide to material developers, publishers, and classroom teachers to judge accurately the value of both authentic and simplified readers.

Like the investigations, articles consider ER an essential component to learning another language. While some favour teacher selection of reading material, the general consensus seems to be to give free reign to learners in choosing reading material. Several talk about ER as part of reading activity in the formal system and for EAP (English for academic purposes) activities. There is also consensus about ER as an outside class activity.  

No reading on ER can be complete, among others, without these publications:
1. Kelly, L. G., in his 25 centuries of language teaching, summarises the history of extensive
    reading from the medieval times to the present.
2. Brumfit, C. J.’s 1979 Readers for foreign learner of English brought out by British Council
    is perhaps the first bibliography of English language graded readers. Interested teachers
    may look it up.
3. Edinburgh Project on Extensive Reading (1992) is a guide prepared by Edinburgh:
    Institute for Applied Language Studies, University of Edinburgh.
4. Day, R. R., & Bamford, J.’s (1998) Extensive reading in the second language classroom
    published by Cambridge: Cambridge University Press is an important contribution to the
    field of extensive reading.
5. Brown, D.’s (2008) Why and how textbooks should encourage extensive reading shows
    how textbooks could encourage extensive reading directly and indirectly.

Like Harold Palmer in Britain, Michael West in India pioneered the theory of extensive reading as an approach to reading, in particular. “The 1929 Coleman Report on "Modern Foreign Language Study", introducing the Reading Method , recommended inclusion of ER in its Method.” Students were to read in the second language without a conscious effort to translate. Emphasis was placed on developing independent silent reading and increasing reading rate of individual students. Frequency word counts were developed and used as a basis for graded readers. Broughton (1978) argued in favour of ER in second language programmes. (ibid) Nuttall’s "slogan" (1982) was: "The best way to improve your knowledge of a foreign language is to go and live among the speakers. The next best way is to read extensively." Krashen (1993) recommended ER because he felt it automatically gave rise to competence in writing and termed it "free voluntary reading". David Eskey  drew the analogy of reading instruction to teaching swimming strokes to people who hated the water. Elley, W.B. (1996), in his report on a study involving 210,000 students and 10,000 teachers in 32 educational systems around the world, concluded that "instructional programs that stress teacher directed drills and skills are less beneficial in raising literacy levels than programs that try to capture students' interest and encourage them to read independently." (Jacobs, G. et al 1999) “Dupre's research in French (1997) supported the theory that ER is more pleasurable and beneficial for language acquisition than grammar instruction and practice. (Macleod) Nuttal (1998) argued the case for ER programmes citing research studies that showed "impressive" gains in reading ability,  motivation and attitude, and overall linguistic competence. There was also evidence of gains in vocabulary and spelling.”      

Paul Nation (1997) concludes that there are a wide range of benefits including: improved reading skills, improved language use and knowledge, and increased enjoyment of language learning. To achieve such results, Nation stresses that this needs to be a long-term project and that it requires large amounts of reading. Another researcher in this field, Rob Waring says that extensive reading is essential if learners are to access the massive amounts of language required in order to learn the words, collocations and registers. He maintains that such reading helps to develop the readers' own sense of language. He stresses, however, that an extensive reading programme should be developed in conjunction with course books and that “When the teacher introduces the library of graded readers, she or he needs to explain to the learners why Extensive Reading is important and convey this to learners as often they cannot see the benefits of this reading and just see it as yet more homework.”  

William Grabe says (2009):    
Extensive reading implies fluent reading which is possible only when the reader knows 98-99 percent of the words in a text and how texts are structured, when the reader is able to make inferences, possesses evaluation skills, is motivated to persist reading.

There is evidence to suggest that in L1 and L2 settings the amount of reading is strongly related to reading abilities more generally. There is also good evidence that long-term extensive reading leads to increased vocabulary growth. Finally, there is some evidence that extensive reading is more motivating for students than more traditional textbook-oriented reading instruction.
  
He states further:
There is argument about providing ‘authentic’ material for extensive reading. Related arguments go thus: First, it is not clear at all what an authentic text is and who has the right to make the decision. Second, taking any text into a classroom setting and using it for pedagogical goals removes the context assumed by the writer, in effect, rendering the text non-authentic.

He provides tips for ER:
1. Provide many attractive reading materials and   have a class library.
2. Provide time for free reading or SSR.
3. Create many opportunities for all types of reading in and out.
4. Read interesting material to students.
5. Find out what students like to read and why.
6. Create a reading lab and give time for students for free reading.
7. Create ways to interest students in reading  topics.
8. Keep records and provide simple and appropriate rewards.
9. Create incentives to start students in their reading.
10. Have students take books and magazines home.
11. Talk about what you read and why that material is interesting to you.
12. Have students share and recommend reading material. (327)

Domenica Petulla (2010), in order to implement an ER programme, she reviews reading in second language and the benefits of ER, focuses on challenges and issues she has to  resolve and proposes activities to enhance her students’ ER experiences. Budi Prasetyono (2014) expresses satisfaction at the usefulness of ER in the reading process.

There seems to be sufficient evidence, therefore, to conclude that extensive reading programmes do contribute to the development of a variety of language skills, if all of the key elements are in place: if the quantity of material read is adequate, if the time period involved is long enough, and if other methods of language learning are employed as well. However, more is to be done towards making ER a successful learner activity. While Section 1.7 recommends a specific technique to make speed reading a reality, Sections 1.9 and 1.10 elaborate on an environment conducive to ER.

1.3 Description of ER
ER is a reading habit that is developed through a school reading curriculum, carried over beyond formal education and extended to an almost lifetime activity that is pursued to whet curiosity or to derive pleasure. Simply put, ER is a thirst, a yearning for more and more, be it for knowledge or pleasure.

1.4  ER as a concept in non-native environment
Reading in one’s own language requires effort. Much more so in another’s language.

Because reading as a skill demands a lot from learners. We read to comprehend, to understand messages in a write-up. This is the basic purpose of reading. To decode language symbols in their written form, we must go through a series of steps. We need to recognise (1) sound grammar—sounds and their patterning as words—pronunciation and stress patterns. Next in line is (2) word grammar—denotations, connotations, homonyms, collocations. We thus pick up our active and passive vocabulary with the help of the teacher, the course book writer and the dictionary. Next to follow is (3) sentence grammar. We recognise sentence types (simple, complex with its various clauses and compound), patterns (SVOAC) and forms (statement, interrogative and exclamatory). We recognise word forms (noun, verb etc), word functions (verbs as nouns, adjectives as nouns), coordinators and subordinators, articles, prepositions. We learn to read with punctuation as well, pausing slightly at every comma, full stop and semi-colon. Finally, there is paragraph grammar. We need to recognise, understand and follow unity, coherence and cohesion, topic sentence, paragraph sequencing (from specific to a general statement and vice versa, spatial, linear, chronological), paragraph development (illustrations, comparison and contrast, cause and effect, classification, problem and solution). Of course, we need to also identify, understand and appreciate writing as narrative (analytical), descriptive, argumentative (inductive, deductive, persuasive) and expository.

There are other equally important considerations. Style can be cumbersome or smooth, concepts and their presentation and treatment can be simple, complex or complicated. There may or may not be clarity in the thought process, thought flow and their physical expression on paper.

I can only talk in a general fashion about ER’s place in the reading curriculum for schools and colleges in India. The English curriculum of the 1950s in Tamil Nadu prescribed
detailed texts (for intensive reading) and non-detailed texts (for extensive reading). I distinctly remember reading abridged versions of A Tale of Two Cities, Robinson Crusoe and The Treasure Island as non-detailed texts. Tamil Nadu 2004 English syllabus for higher secondary education in schools does provide for extensive reading through supplementary readers for home reading, class discussion and internal assessment. Classes 8 to 10 also have supplementary readers.  English majors have non-detailed texts. Several universities in India appear to have non-detailed texts as part of their English language syllabuses for BA/BSc.

Even though how successful and useful such limited handling of ER programme has been has not been investigated to my knowledge, and I am not too sure about its successful continuation in the lives of several educated residents of Tamil Nadu.

ER cannot happen, cannot succeed without intensive reading beginning the reading activity. Both can go hand in hand in professional institutions as well where learners go beyond the textbook and seek other sources (books, magazines, journals and theses) to gather information or knowledge related to a given discipline for its own sake or research purposes. In this sense, ER is a formal activity. ER can become an informal activity and can be an end in itself when literatures of various countries, fiction or non-fiction are read for pleasure or enjoyment.   
 
1.5 Gains from ER for the non-native learner
History of ER, narrated briefly earlier, reveals all too clearly the advantages.
· It helps learners interested in pursuing their areas of interest in a given knowledge
   discipline. It provides information and knowledge.
· It helps readers to dwell in the realm of fantasy and fiction. It provides pleasure and
   enjoyment.
· It helps improve language acquisition and gain knowledge of various cultures.
· It strengthens speed reading and comprehension.
· It takes language learning forward in its wholesomeness.
· It enables readers to gain mastery and apply this mastery while listening, speaking, reading
   and writing.
· In the absence of a live environment to learn English, it serves as an excellent substitute
   where books can bring alive the atmosphere, culture, language through story books, novels,
   non-fiction, newspapers, magazines and literatures.

1.6 Initiating ER
The most important thing to consider is the content. Print media and electronic media can be used to provide plenty of:
1. interesting mythology-based story books (both Indian and non-Indian) to children who are
    learning to read in the class,
2. abridged versions of famous novels from literature ‘greats’, of course free from grammar
    and vocabulary errors, to adolescent learners who have studied English for five or six
    years.
3. fiction—Indian and non-Indian (American, British, African, Japanese, Russian writers, for
    instance).
4. non-fiction: travelogues, autobiographies, articles on wonders and treasures of
    civilisations, astronomy, health, descriptions etc.

 Though research recommends these, common sense also tells us: the book content has to
  · be highly comprehensible;
  · be abundantly and reliably available;
  · be frequently encountered;
  · contain language features that are at or slightly beyond the learners current level;
  · contain language features that engage the learners attention;
  · be meaningful and interesting.

1.7 Ensuring success in reading
Comprehending a given material, critically analysing it, storing it, appreciating it, enjoying it are reading activities. To achieve all these, students need to read with comprehension. They must be enabled to develop speed reading, for slow reading hardly helps retention of  comprehended messages.

Before describing my method to develop speed reading, I thought I would take a look at some of the websites that talk about speed reading:
Sources:
2.Tim Ferriss ‘s Scientific Speed Reading: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes at
3. Maria Popova’s How to Read Faster: Bill Cosby’s Three Proven Strategies
    one of the strategies is ‘clustering’.
4. Deb Patterson in her “Evelyn Wood’s Former Partner Shares Speed Reading Secrets” lists
    six reading techniques from Wechsler to be learnt in six weeks: Week 4: Read in chunks
6. How to learn to speed read at http://www.wikihow.com/Learn-Speed-Reading

Sources 1, 4, 6 and 7 recommend
· Use a pointer or other device to help you push your reading speed
Sources 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 recommend (only source 3 provides a sample)
· Read in blocks of words
Source 2 and 6 recommend
· Time your reading speed regularly:
   Click a timer on (stop watch is the best), read a paragraph of say 1000 words with   
   understanding. Stop the timer the moment you finish reading. Let’s say you took five
   minutes, then it means your speed is 200 words per minute.

And almost all emphasise removal of negative habits like sub-vocalisation, regression.

Here is Cosby’s clustering example (source 3):

“Cluster — to Increase Speed AND Comprehension
Most of us learn to read by looking at each word in a sentence — one at a time.
Like this:
My — brother — Russell — thinks — monsters…
You probably still read this way sometimes, especially when the words are difficult. Or when the words have an extra special meaning, as in a poem, a Shakespeare play or a contract. And that’s okay.
But word-by-word reading is a rotten way to read faster. It actually cuts down on your speed.
Clustering  trains you to look at groups of words instead of one at a time, and it increases your speed enormously. For most of us, clustering is a totally different way of seeing what we read.
Here’s how to cluster: Train your eyes to see all the words in clusters of up to three or four words at a glance.
Here’s how I’d cluster the story we just skimmed:
My brother Russell thinks monsters live in our bedroom closet at night.
 “Go and check then,” he said.
I didn’t want to. Russell said I was chicken.
“Am not,” I said.
“Are so,” he said
So I told him the monsters were going to eat him at midnight. He started to cry. My dad came in and told the monsters to beat it. Then he told us to go to sleep.
“If I hear anymore about monsters,” he said,“ I’ll spank you.”
We went to sleep fast. And you know something? They never did come back.

(My brother Russell)    (thinks monsters)  (live in our bedroom)  (closet at night.)

(“Go and)  (check then,”)  (he said.)

(I didn’t want to.)  (Russell said)  (I was chicken.)

(“Am not,”)  (I said.)

(“Are so,”)  (he said,)

(So I told him)   (the monsters)  (were going to)   (eat him at midnight.)   (He started to cry.)

(My dad came in)   (and told the monsters)   (to beat it.)   (Then he told us)   (to go)  (to sleep.)

(“If I hear)    (anymore about monsters,”)  (he said,)   (“ I’ll spank you.”)

(We went)   (to sleep fast.)   (And you know something?)  (They never did come back.)

Learning to read clusters is not something your eyes do naturally. It takes constant practice.”


I also read a few interesting articles on speed reading:
“These early insights led to growth in the development of speed reading courses, and to the belief that individuals requiring to read faster could be trained to do so through the use of paper-based techniques, and also by way of technological aids such as metronomes, and projectors or reading machines.” (Bell, 2001) “The early insights” in the quote refer to “... the writings of Fry (1963) and De Leeuw & De Leeuw (1965).” (ibid). Bell notes: “Williams (1984:96) has argued for extensive reading as a way to develop adequate general reading speed, and Hill (1986:17) calls for the provision of class sets of graded readers as a means to the same end.” (ibid) He reports that the results of the study undertaken indicate that subjects exposed to ‘extensive’ reading achieved faster reading speeds and secured a higher score of reading comprehension than subjects exposed to ‘intensive’ reading.(ibid) Nation (2009) describes a range of activities for developing reading fluency, suggests how the development of fluency can become part of a reading programme, and states that speed reading courses use both words per minute graphs and comprehension score graphs. Macalister (2010) suggests that a speed reading course, measured in words per minute, may contribute to faster reading speeds on other types of texts.  Chang and Millet (2013) report that repeated timed reading did help improve speed and comprehension. Mu He (2014) reports the positive relationship between extensive reading and students’ progress in reading speed.

Grouping words while reading is known as clustering, phrased reading, or structural technique. Browning (2003) mentions Plaister (1968) and Klaeser (1977) who recommend the structural technique. It helps reading fluency and takes ER to a higher level.

My Speed reading with comprehension technique improves ‘phrased reading’ further. It lies in clustering words in as large sense groups as possible without affecting comprehension. I used it in my 1993 textbook, prescribed for first year engineering students of Madras University, India, and guided my students to read comprehension passages in short and long chunks. I have posted this with more examples in my blog: kolipakam.blogspot.in.

1.7.1 Essential conditions
For speed reading to be successful, four things are essential:
   a. good command of the language—lexis, sentence structure (forms, kinds, patterns) 
   b. paragraph structure (topic sentence, unity, coherence, cohesion)    
   c. reading free from
       · going back often to where we started before continuing to read because we’re unable to
          remember what we read earlier and so we’re unable to follow what the writer is saying
       · using a tracker or pointer to read (finger or a pencil, for instance)
       · mouthing (moving your lips to read) the words.
   d. Desire to read beyond course books. 

1.7.2  Achieving speed reading
In natural reading, we don’t read every word separately, that is, we don’t stop at every word before proceeding to the next. Our eyes take short or large jumps; that is, we read words in small or large groups or chunks as sense groups which make comprehension possible.

1.7. 3 Reading single sentences
You have below a sentence, which is divided with the help of slashes [/]. Read each division and then decide which one helps you understand each sentence without difficulty and increase your reading speed.

Sample Sentence


1. a. One/of/ the/ mistaken/ ideas/held/by/too/many/programmers/is/that/ the/
         documentation/for/a/program/should/ be/written/only/after/the/program/is/
         ‘finished’. (26 groups )

    b. One of/the mistaken/ideas/held by/too many/programmers/is that/ the
         documentation/for a/program/should be/written only/after/ the program is/
         ‘finished’.   (14 groups)                      

    c. One of the/mistaken ideas/held by /too many programmers/is that/the
        documentation/ for a program/should be written/ only after/ the program is
        ‘finished’.  (10 groups)

    d. One of the mistaken ideas/ held by too many programmers/ is that/ the
        documentation for a program/should be written/only after the program is
        ‘finished’. (6 groups)

    e. One of the mistaken ideas held by too many programmers/ is that/ the
        documentation for a program should be written/ only after the program is
        ‘finished.’ (4 groups)
  

The lesser the number of groups, the better the comprehension. Understanding best what is  written happens when you read words in small or large sense groups.

1.7.4  Improving the speed further
1.a. You read words individually and found it difficult to get the message comfortably.
1. b You read some words together and some others individually but this time it was less
       difficult to understand.
1.c. You put more words together and thus reduced the number of groups and so
       understanding the message is becoming less difficult.
1.d. You enlarged each group by reading more words together. You are comfortable now and
       understanding the message is easy.
1.e. This time you reduced the groups from six to four. This reduction helps your
       comprehension and increases your speed as well.

As you can see, it was very slow in 1.a, the speed picked up in 1.b, the speed increased along with comprehension in 1.c. When you read 1.d.  and 1.e. your comfort level increases and the message reaches the brain without difficulty and the speed also moves up.

Now we can increase the speed further without affecting comprehension:  


1. f
One of the mistaken ideas held by too many programmers is that

 the  documentation for a program should be written only after the program is  ‘finished’.

(2 groups)


The eye here takes the longest possible jumps and yet the mind receives the message in comfort. Maximum speed is achieved without sacrificing comprehension.

The same technique is to be employed while reading paragraphs.

However, / it must be borne in mind/ that such large groups, / as the ones you see in the box above,/ are not frequent because/ sentences do usually contain phrases or  clauses in between,/ in front/ or at the end./ In which case,/ pauses have to be made/ and such reading will naturally increase the sense groups/ and the reading speed will vary./

I have used the slashes in the previous paragraph to indicate that the length of sense groups will depend on the kind of sentence being read.

Practice makes perfect, they say. This is true in the case of speed reading with comprehension.

1.8 Ensuring success in ER
It’s all very well to talk tall about implementation of ER in schools and colleges and to invest a lot of money in the purchase of appropriate readers and abridged versions and short stories for class or school library. And teachers may sincerely propagate ER and laboriously wax eloquent about the multiple advantages of ER. But it won’t work. The next two sections will say why it won’t unless certain conditions are met.

1.9 reasons for disinterest in ER
Despite the convincing arguments ER literature offers, despite the overwhelming support for it from researchers, experienced teachers, ER is not happening in educational institutions except sporadically. Even in those places, it seems that ER in its true sense is yet to be implemented—to satisfy curiosity or derive enjoyment.

Reasons are not far to seek.

Students, teachers and parents—given today’s social and professional environment—are keen on spoken English, they even realise that ‘listening’ is also an important skill, they also know ‘writing’ is a desirable skill but they don’t seem to treat ER as something that needs to be developed. For them, ER is not a utility skill like the other three.

Syllabus writers do not think ER need be given specific attention. Managements of schools—private or public—do not consider spending time and money on ER worth the effort. They seem to feel that once comprehension is achieved, students will likely continue reading beyond the curriculum if they feel the need. Classroom teachers probably don’t update their professional knowledge and are not aware of ER and its advantages. And even if they knew they would probably not take any steps because they know preparing students well for exams is their first duty. And also this is what parents and managements and even students expect of teachers. Anyway, it’s a known fact that students struggle with the content, lexis and structure of course books. Then there is homework pressure. To top it all, youngsters are pretty busy with electronic gadgets listening to music and sending and receiving messages and texts, watching the TV, visiting Face book and Twitter to exchange thoughts and information, spending time gossiping or visiting pubs.

Little wonder if English learning is not taken to the next level through ER.

1.10 Steps we need to take to encourage ER as a reading habit
Charity begins at home, they say. ER should begin at home. But children don’t see their parents reading books in the local language, let alone in English. The environment around them is bereft of the reading habit, and teachers (and parents) hide their guilt by probably saying that their time is taken up by professional and social activities and argue that students should read extensively without being invited to. 

If children are to take an interest in ER in English, the foundation must be laid by encouraging children to develop ER in local languages. That ER will happen on its own in regional languages is the general assumption but that hardly happens. Expecting ER to happen in English is then illogical, to say the least. Parents should be good readers themselves and must be seen to be practising ER so children can emulate them. Once this interest is kindled there can be a smooth extension to ER in English. Parents and schools should build a library in their homes and schools. Parents must be able to convince their children with sufficient information about their book collections. Section 1.6 provides details of the kind of books that should occupy book shelves.

Through internet activities via games, today’s children are attracted to violence. Winning by any means is becoming a culture. Education ministries and governments must prohibit such games. And parents should take steps to prevent children from playing and watching games of violence. Students must be encouraged to spend that time reading a variety of books. 

The society must take the blame and set matters right.

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