Review ~ Strategic Reading 2Improving reading fluency by developing reading strategies through the use of a variety of authentic texts.
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. The units are widely varied in subject and range from familiar themes such as names and families, to popular topics such as movies and languages and more abstract concepts such as fear and the paranormal. The readings in each unit range from 400 to 550 words, averaging about seven short paragraphs per reading and are taken from such sources as The Independent, Business Week, The Joy Luck Club, and globalideasbank.org.
Each unit is 10 pages in length and follows the same general structure. The units begin with a one-page unit preview containing a short summary of the three readings in the unit. This is followed by two pre-reading tasks that encourage schema building for the reading topic, as well as to give the reader a chance to connect the topic of the reading to their own lives.
Lastly, there are four post-reading tasks which are designed to check comprehension, build vocabulary, develop a particular reading strategy, or provide opportunities for discussion. Each reading also contains either a skimming or scanning exercise, as well as other activities that are designed to develop various reading strategies (predicting, making inferences, summarizing, etc).
One thing that was particularly appealing about the book, at least when used in a classroom context, is that the units can be taught either in the order they appear or out of sequence. The same is true for the texts in each unit. This is especially useful if a student misses a lesson and would like to make up the work she or he missed. I also liked that the readings came from authentic sources and were not adapted for the textbook – during a brief perusal of other reading textbooks aimed at students at this level, I found that many of the readings were adapted or created especially for the textbook. Lastly, in the spirit of improving reading fluency, the book describes how to do timed readings and in each unit encourages the reader to check their reading speed with one of the readings from each unit.
Coming from two esteemed and highly prolific authors as well as a very famous and respected publishing house it was a bit challenging for this reviewer to find many major faults with Strategic Reading 2. That being said, though the book claims to be geared for young adults to adult learners, in my estimation, it would be better suited for the former as some of the topics might possibly be better enjoyed by high school students or university students rather than adult professionals. Also, one improvement on the book might be to mix up the unit structure a bit. As the book is designed with the same format in each unit, things can get quite repetitive. Thus a little more variety might be a proper way to spice up the overall layout of the book.
Overall, Strategic Reading 2 achieves quite well what it sets out to do: improve reading fluency by developing reading strategies. Though the units can get a bit repetitive, the readings themselves are authentic and interesting and should play a good role in helping the high-intermediate student become a more fluent reader.
January 2013 | Filed under Skills: Reading
David Truxal is an English language teacher, currently based in Tokyo. He has been teaching for over eight years in a variety of contexts from international kindergarten to university. He holds an MSc in TESOL from Temple University, Japan.