Procedure level of interest. Observation checklist, researcher’s
ProcedureThereading programme was carried out from 23 October – 24 November 2017. This programme took place every day of school dayfor 5 weeks right before the end of year school holiday. The first severalclassroom sessions were used to orientate students to extensive reading byinstructing them on how to choose books, read extensively, and fill out thebook report. The duration of each reading treatment was for one hour a day, inwhich reading mainly occurred inside the English Self-Access Learning room withthe teacher monitoring. This is so that the teacher can ensure that reading isactually taking place in that particular one hour.
Students’ reading wascarefully monitored using a pre-designed observation form to record readers’behavior and responses. Learners had choice whether or not to refer to thedictionary or to simply ignore any unfamiliar word. They were in factencouraged to keep reading even if they did not understand some of the words. SomeChinese students were tempted to look for meaning in the dictionaries and Iallowed them if they really feel if there is the need to do that. Most Malaystudents did not mind not knowing and proceeded with reading after I havediscouraged the use of dictionary. The reason for this was to avoid interferingwith the reading progress and to allow a more uninterrupted reading.
Inaddition, since the purpose was for them to have an enjoyable easy reading, itwas crucial that students choose which book they want to read as theythemselves are aware of their own ability. Aftereach book, students have to share their reading with me. According to Green(2005), GR cannot stand alone, in fact, it isa reading project where all the language components need to be incorporatedtogether. By integrating GR with a productive activity like speaking or writing,it is the best way to ensure the success of comprehension.
Therefore, I decidedto have a book report activity in which the readers have to share the story. Thissharing can be in a form of telling it to me either by writing or speaking. Interviewswith the participants were carried out at the end of the reading programme to assesstheir level of interest. Observation checklist, researcher’s field notes and reader’sdiaries were kept throughout the reading programme to allow data triangulation.Ihave adopted some of the key features of a classic reading programme suggested by Day and Bamford (2002) which iswidely used by researchers worldwide. They are as followed:a) Theteachers should know about the learner’s book preferenceb) Thestudents should be reading at their own level of competencyc) Studentsare encouraged to share their readingd) Readingprogress are monitored dailye) Carriedout in a no threatening way Results and DiscussionStudentsattitudes towards readingAtthe opening stage of the programme, I was concerned with the learner’s opinionsand feelings in general.
Students were interviewed what they think aboutreading in their first and second language. Here are some initial responsesfrom them. “Reading is just painful, youhave to sit there and read passively”. He also commented “Reading is just not my thing” Thisparticular student finds reading a very difficult activity to do despitereading in his own first language. Some even responded by saying that they seeno point in reading since they can watch or listen to English materials.
Theyalso reported that mobile devices are much more appealing to them compared tosimple books. This was supported by a number of study which suggested that ithas become increasingly apparent that although students are able to read, theyvery rarely choose to do so. Powell (2002) suggested that some of the possiblereasons for this negative development may be the home environment or somenegative experiences of learners at schools. As far as all these reasons are concerned,it can be speculated that readers did not come from a home environment whichvalues reading. That is to say that parents who for example do not read totheir children, and do not provide them with enough reading material at home,directly influence the students’ general attitudes towards reading.Student’attitudes towards the programmeThelearners’ attitudes towards the reading programme were observed throughout thefive weeks of reading. The response to the GR was generally positive, althoughthere was variation among individual students. This in relation suggestsextensive reading impacts not only on reading comprehension but also motivation(Day and Bamford, 2002).
After the third week, they seem to get into the habitof reading. Without wasting anytime, during the reading hour, students wouldcome into the Self Access Learning room and started reading independently. Eventually this practice has become automatedand reading was not as slow as it was before the start of the reading programme.During the book report, they shared with me about the story in the novelenthusiastically. It was apparent that they began to develop interest towardsthe story in the GR. There was one student who really liked one GR entitled New Yorkers Short Stories by O. Henry.
She liked the fact that the story made her feel surprised when it endedabruptly with a twist. She said that not many Malay books have such aninteresting storylines. When asked what she felt when she did not understandsome of the words, she responded by saying that after certain point she wasreading for the story line, and no longer feels the need to understand everyword. It was pretty obvious that significant improvements can be seen throughstudents’ level of interest after participating in the reading activities.
Whenquestioned about their opinion on the sharing session with me, majority of the studentsfrequently mentioned that they understood what they read but found it difficultto share with others. This is a common problem amongst the students since whatthey had was a receptive skills practice. I was not at alarmed about this. Itold them that it was okay to tell me the story in their first language as Iwas just checking on their comprehension and opinions on the stories they haveread.
My belief on delaying puttingemphasis on their productive domain is in line with Krashen’s theory whichsuggested that producing output was not necessary for learners in the earlystage of language acquisition. With time, the production will take place as aresult of the succesful input processing (Krashen, 1990). Therefore, languageteachers should not worry so much about getting the students to talk about whatthey understand as the learning will take care of itself once readers haveenough language exposure.Inone of the interviews carried out at the end of the five-week readingprogramme, a student reported that he was more confident to read English booksafter reading the Wizard of Oz by L.Frank Baum. He was reported saying ‘Inever thought that reading could be fun’ and that he has never actuallyread that much his whole life.
He said that normally easy books are for smallchildren and the one that suited them in the library are usually difficult andnot simplified. From the observation and interviews, it was found that by the end of the reading programme, studentshad clearly developed some interest inreading English books. This was evident from their eagerness to share the storywith me in the post-reading activity.
Some of them even asked if they couldread more books once they had finished all the GR available.Thisanalysis suggests that GR generally improved student’s motivation and fluency inreading. Throughout the five-week reading course, the 10 students in this groupwhose data was included in this analysis managed to read at least 3 GR onaverage. Similarly to a study done by Margado (2009), students were highlymotivated to read more in English after the programme ended.
This finding proposed that GradedReading had a positive impact on the students’ reading ability thus increasingtheir motivation. Issuesand challengesDespitehow much details I have given in setting up the reading task, there were indeedsome challenges in the execution of the plan. First, it was considerablychallenging to get the students to stop talking with each other during thereading. This was the very reason I planned for the reading to be morecontrolled and take place in the English room for an hour a day. The rationalewas to minimize the noise and distraction caused by various factors.
Nonetheless, having some noise by chit-chatting is inevitable and I eventuallyrealize that constant monitoring is the only solution to this situation. Anotherissue that is worth commented on during my observation was students’ reluctanceto read. It was a daunting task to get them to actually read the first page ofthe book. Some of them did not have the motivation in the beginning and some ofthem did not have the momentum to read at all. Perhaps this owed to the fact that reading was a veryunfamiliar practice and they just needed some time to get accustomed to it.
Fortunately,by the second week, after a constant encouragement and advice, a few of themstarted to play along as the hour was exclusively dedicated to reading. ConclusionToconclude, the inclusion of GR as a form of the extensive reading approach to a readingclassroom in Malaysia allows students to develop positive attitudes towardsreading in English. It brings their attention to the values and knowledge theliterature can offer, told in a more comprehensive manner. On the whole, itneeds to be stated, however that this research has been done over a relativelyshort period of time and short-term studies might not reveal the full benefitsof GR. The result of exposure needs a considerably long time to be fruitful. If graded readers are to be implanted for a numberof years, it would ultimately result in significantly more proficient, keenreaders among the learners of English in any English as a second languageclassroom. GR is unquestionably a reading program with the potential to leadstudents along a path to independence and resourcefulness in their reading andlanguage learning.