Essay: Selecting Reading Material In Extensive Reading

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  • Subject area(s): Education
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  • Published on: 14th June 2012
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  • Number of pages: 2

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Selecting Reading Material In Extensive Reading

Selecting reading material plays a crucial role in extensive reading as it contributes to its successful progress and development of the learner's reading habit. Nuttall (2005) suggests four important criteria for selecting extensive reading texts that can be presented as SAVE acronym.
'S' stands for short because EFL learners should not be discouraged by lengthy texts that can be difficult or boring for them and thus produce unwillingness to read extensively.
'A' means appealing as it is the necessary condition extensive reading materials should fulfill to promote interest in reading. A good book for ERP should enhance the learner's desire to read, not to look like a textbook.
'V' reminds that a variety is needed in ERP. Since every learner is unique in his/her needs, abilities and personality, there should be a range of materials he/she can choose from.
And finally 'E' that asks for easy materials that are within the learner's language competence. If the materials are difficult, students find impossible to read fluently and can stop reading completely. So it is important to provide learners with books they are able to deal with because 'improvement comes from reading a lot of easy material' (Nuttall, 2005).

2.3.1 Authentic or simplified?
There has been ongoing discussion what type of materials is appropriate for EFL learners. The problem is that it is highly recommended using authentic materials in language teaching and this seems to be in stark contrast to one of the principles of extensive reading that reading materials should be within the learner's language competence. Authentic materials clearly do not meet this condition as they are written for native speakers and can be an overwhelming task for EFL students.
Authenticity is also questioned by some advocates of extensive reading that claim the impossibility to define the term itself as it can be seen in different ways from texts written primarily to native speakers to materials that convey the writer's message (Bamford and Day, 2004). Grabe (2009) even presents the idea that using any reading material in the classroom makes it inauthentic because it is used for learning aims and this can affect the intended writer's message.
To explore if simplified reading materials can be the solution to the situation, the term 'simplified' should be explained. Basically, these are materials that are either written for language learners in the target language or adapted versions of authentic texts, such as classic stories. The term 'graded readers' is very often used for them. There is constant criticism of the quality of simplified materials. McRae (1991), for example, sees them as 'a pale replica, a watered-down version, of the original'. This is caused by the need to change the story into the form that is comprehensible for language learners. It inevitably affects the message of the text and the richness of the story. Using simple language structures or removing features that help readers to follow the story, such as connectives makes a story seem to be rather unnatural and this is probably the reason why authentic literature is more appreciated in language teaching (Bamford and Day, 2004) (Hedge, 2000) (Maley, 2008).
Nevertheless, simplified materials have their benefits. Without them reading the 'whole' books would be impossible for elementary readers and this strong incentive would be eliminated from the process of language development. Another reason is that becoming a competent reader needs time so reading in L2 should be practised from the very beginning and this is impossible with using only authentic materials. That is probably the reason why introducing graded readers has become a part of standards for extensive reading programs in Poland. To avoid the problem with a poor quality of some simplified materials, a teacher should select those that are relevant for their students not only in terms of their language competence, but also interest and content. The number of graded readers has increased in recent times so there is an opportunity to select the right ones that fulfill the learners' needs (Hedge, 2000).
To conclude, well selected simplified materials can be used as a means of improving the learners' reading competence, allow them to read complete books without struggle and gradually gain self-confidence to move to authentic materials. According to Grabe (2009), 'little evidence exists that extensive reading with 'authentic' texts would lead to improvement over extensive reading with a graded reader series'. Day and Bamford (2004) add that 'simplification is no more than a term ['] to refer to writing to language learners; and that any simplicity detected in such writing is not something gained at the expense of authenticity but is the very expression of authenticity itself'.

3. Extensive reading and EFL learner's development
There is a great deal of evidence that extensive reading has a powerful impact on language learning. The more someone reads, the more they pick up items of vocabulary and grammar from the texts, often without realising it, and this widening language knowledge seems to increase their overall linguistic confidence, which then influences and improves their skills in other language

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