Macmillan Factual Readers
For the most part, graded readers need to be level-appropriate, well written and, most importantly, interesting. Macmillan’s new series of Factual Readers for young learners match all of these requirements. The 40 book series is divided into six levels covering the five topics of natural science, history, people, wildlife and transport. Full of pictures, tables and diagrams that bring the topics to life, these books offer a good alternative to the plethora of narrative-based readers that usually fill most extensive reading libraries.
The presentation of these books is very similar to what one would find in books for young native English speakers like Guinness World Records books or a Time for Kids Almanac. The presentation of information is bold, clear and well illustrated. For kids interested in general knowledge and unusual facts (as I was when I was a kid) they are perfect. While some of the lower levels may be by necessity rather basic, there are still some wonderful little bits of trivia for kids to digest. The pictures often raise questions which motivate the kids to read and find out what they are about.
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Strategic Reading 2
Prolifically varied is a term that could be used to describe Jack Richard’s writing output in the last 30 or so years, as he has authored or co-authored numerous professional books for English language teachers as well as many widely used textbooks for English language students. Samuela Eckstut-Didier has also authored or co-authored many textbooks for English language students ranging from grammar-based books to integrated skills books to reading and vocabulary building books. Here, the two have collaborated to produce a useful and enjoyable reading textbook that can be used for self-study or incorporated into the classroom.
Strategic Reading 2 is aimed at high-intermediate young adult and adult learners of English. It is designed to develop reading fluency through the use of a variety of authentic texts including newspapers, magazines, books and web sites. The book is divided into 12 units with three readings per unit
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Bringing Extensive Reading into the Classroom
Bringing Extensive Reading into the Classroom is a gentle polemic on the virtues and common sense practicalities of allowing students access to the benefits of a well-executed extensive reading program. Most of the book concerns itself with just that, how to set up and run an extensive reading program: the cost, the administration, and the pedagogical considerations. However, there are also examples of well-thought-out lesson plans and activities to engage students inside the classroom. A more fitting title might have been “Bringing Extensive Reading into the School”, but that in itself can be a challenging thing to do well. This book could certainly help avoid wasted time and money in setting up an effective library and program.
The first chapter outlines the authors’ strong belief in the advantages of extensive over intensive reading. For those teachers not sure of how “just reading” can be beneficial, this chapter lays out some convincing arguments for the adoption, in part at least, of extensive reading as a viable classroom activity. It stresses that a teacher’s role in such an extensive reading program is both to enthuse over the benefits of extensive readings and Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) in the classroom, and to orient and guide students through the levels of graded readers, all so that they gain the most benefit from a program.
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Oxford Bookworms Readers for iPad
Oxford are the first, but probably won’t be the last, to start moving their readers series to the iPhone and iPad (but no Android versions yet). In February this year, these faithful adaptations of the original books topped the iTunes charts in Japan (a chart typically dominated by TOIEC and Brain Training). It’s easy to see why. With many on sale now for as little as 85 yen (one dollar) they represent great value for money. They are easy to navigate, beautifully presented, and wonderfully illustrated. If students are looking for a convenient, digital alternative then these come highly recommended. All levels and tastes are catered for, with 55 books from levels 1 to 6 of the series available.
The app versions come with some nice extra features. Complete audio is included. This can either be listened to as you read or played like an audio book. Another addition to the app is a glossary of new keywords, which can be highlighted in the text and tapped on to
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Delta Academic Objectives: Reading Skills
Reading Skills by Louis Rogers is a new title from Delta Publishing which forms part of the Delta Academic Objectives series to help students adapt to the challenges of studying academic English. The book prepares the learners to work with difficult academic material by covering the following four areas: understanding and comprehension of the text, critical thinking, using the text, and language focus. This text matches learners who have a lower reading proficiency, and it would best fit a target audience of middle school level and higher. It best fits students’ needs in basic areas of reading comprehension, specifically when it is related to reading of academic English texts.
The structure of the text includes 12 units, with units six and 12 dedicated to revision of the previous material. At the end of the book there is an Academic Word List, comprising twelve pages of exercises that test vocabulary knowledge. The individual chapters start out with “aims” that serve as objectives for each unit. A Topic Focus section prepares students for the material in the chapter. This is followed by a section entitled Understanding the Text which identifies specific reading skills such as
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The Big Bag Mistake
Each of the books in this collection has a very bright and colourful cover illustration or photo, including the classics, which was a welcome change to the old style classics sadly accumulating dust in my school. The photo of David Beckham on one of the books was particularly popular with some of my female students!
Some of my students were kind enough to read a few of the books and their comments have been included in my review. I also asked them to make an additional comment about the activities included.
The Big Bag Mistake by John Escott
Two young students Ricardo and Gisela are travelling from London to their homes in Rio de Janeiro and they meet on the plane. They have very different personalities and Ricardo´s attempts to chat to Gisela en route are not successful. When a thief steals Gisela´s bag, Ricardo and Gisela cross paths again.
Between Two Worlds by Stephen Rabley
Joanna is an Australian nurse living in Woomara. A very ill baby has to be taken to Sydney for treatment, but the mother is unable to leave behind her other children so Joanna offers to accompany the baby. After some time in the big city Joanna has to make an important decision.
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Connecting Reading and Writing
Critical thinking is in vogue in the EFL/ESL field at the moment, and at a recent conference I saw myriad materials touting the development of students’ critical thinking skills. The question, however, is whether these materials actually follow through on their claims or are simply roses by other names with very little innovation. I can say that the Weaving It Together series from Cengage blends actual development of critical thinking skills, on multiple levels, with reading and writing development. The format across the four levels is similar, with increased difficulty coming in the length of readings (one page in level 1 and 2 up to three pages in level 4), writing products (paragraphs in level 1, paragraphs to basic essays in level 2, full length essays in levels 3 and 4), and level of analysis required in the tasks (level 4 ends with analysis and interpretation of fictional work). Levels 1 and 2 are appropriate for low intermediate (high school EFL) while level 3 would be appropriate for mid to high intermediate (university level EFL). Level 4 is solidly for high intermediate to advanced level learners, because the combination of analytical and linguistic demands will be more than lower level students can likely handle. These are also good texts for adult students, or for those in a university ESL classroom in which they are learning to write.
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In the House
I must admit to feeling a little overwhelmed when I received this set of graded readers. Despite the colourful covers and contemporary titles, so unlike the readers I´d previously come across, I wondered how on earth I was going to review such an array of books. After some pondering and leafing through the books I decided- who better to review them than my students? Therein lay the battle though! Students in my experience, at least the adults, are not overly keen to do any extensive reading, claiming they just don´t have the time.
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Here I will review three Graded Readers from the ever-popular Penguin Series. All published last year, these new additions to the collection span a range of levels from pre-intermediate to advanced. For the first two, I shall review them with additional comments by students from my reading classes; and for the third one, one of my students has contributed a review.
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The growing interest in graded readers for language learners, driven in part by academic work (e.g. Edinburgh Project of Extensive Reading) and the burgeoning Language Learner Literature campaign which promotes the development of quality literature for language learners, is also a reflection of the improved quality of
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