Vol. 3. No. 2 R-3 March 1998
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Beginning Reading Practices: Building Reading and Vocabulary Strategies

Keith S. Folse (1996)
Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press
Pp. xvi + 140
ISBN 0-472-08394-5 (paper)
US $15.95

Teaching reading and vocabulary in a second language is very challenging, especially to beginners. Most second language readers carry their own first language reading behaviors, skills, and strategies into the second language learning environment. Moreover, they struggle with another component of language, vocabulary. Therefore, instruction in reading and vocabulary, as well as building reading and vocabulary strategies, becomes crucial at the beginning level. Beginning Reading Practices by Keith S. Folse aims at contributing to this area of concern from a practioner-researcher point of view.

The text begins with an introduction to the teacher. Folse explains each lesson carefully and provides a rationale for each exercise in the lessons, combining his rationale with research findings and his personal experience. He clarifies his purpose in preparing the text: "to develop students' vocabulary; to teach students skills that will help them deal with unfamiliar vocabulary; to teach important reading skills at a beginning level; to help students develop and use these skills through gradual and sequential practices; to give students reading passages at the appropriate language level; and to develop students' awareness and use of important strategies so that students can improve their reading ability and learn to become independent readers in English" (p. xix).

Beginning Reading Practices consists of eight lessons. Even-numbered lessons offer real reading practice and odd-numbered lessons present skill practice, except for lessons 7 and 8. Lesson 7 consists of "fun vocabulary exercises," and lesson 8 consists of a short story, which requires students to apply all the strategies they have learned so far. There is also an answer key for most of the exercises in the text.

The book emphasizes several reading skills, including using context clues, drawing conclusions, understanding factual information, finding the main idea, reading for specific information, sequencing material, making predictions, using outlines to understand text organization, summarizing material, and reading for enjoyment.

The exercises provide practice in basal reading skills for beginning students of ESL. The reading passages, presented in the [-1-] even-numbered lessons, are authentic texts in that they include simplified passages from nonprose, fiction, non-fiction, and news report extracts. The vocabulary chosen for the exercises is taken from the reading passages. There is also a selected passage aimed at linking reading and writing.

The skill practice exercises include context clues, language focus, sentence study, finding the main idea, scanning, sequencing/prediction, following directions, improving reading speed, timed word selection exercises, timed reading exercises, and vocabulary recall. Each skill practice exercise contains an introduction that explains the purpose to the student.

The reading skill exercises are based on the reading selections, which include nonprose, nonfiction, fiction, news reports, and reading/discussion/writing. Selecting reading passages from various sources makes reading more enjoyable; moreover, including multicultural patterns in those selections makes reading meaningful. For example, a Japanese folktale in lesson 2 and a Thai folktale in lesson 6 bring cultural variety to the text. In addition, passages on U.S. geography (lesson 2) and a listing of U.S. presidents (lesson 4) reflect a functional aspect of language use in an ESL environment.

There are twenty reading strategies covered in the text. They are presented in a nonsequential order, and can be covered in any sequence that the instructor and/or students deem appropriate. This presentation of strategies is very helpful for students to develop metacognitive awareness of strategies and strategy use. The hints about strategies included after each exercise are also a great stimulus to provoke interest.

Following the last lesson and before the answer key there are reading rate charts, provided for students to record their progress in timed word and timed reading exercises. After having read and timed the reading passage, students can check their reading rate by means of these charts. Additionally, following the answer key, there are some pages provided for students as an individual vocabulary notebook, to keep a vocabulary log during the course of study. Both reading rate charts and individual vocabulary notebook pages can be helpful for students not only to observe their progress but also to establish and increase an awareness of strategy use. Such practice helps beginners especially develop strategies through meaningful and purposeful guidance.

One concern I have about this book is that the content of the reading passages seems to be designed for ESL students in an ESL situation. For example, U.S. geography (lesson 2) and the presidents of the U.S. (lesson 4) cannot be as interesting or appropriate for EFL students as they are for ESL students. Although the book may be suitable for any beginning level students who would like to [-2-] strengthen their reading and vocabulary strategies through intensive study of this text, it would be very hard to recommend it as a textbook in an EFL setting.

Weighing the advantages and disadvantages of Beginning Reading Practice: Building Reading and Vocabulary Strategies indicates that the strengths far surpass any weaknesses. This textbook is useful not only in a classroom situation, but also for self-study because it is enriched by numerous examples, thorough and clear explanations of skills, and various exercises for reading and vocabulary practice.

Arif Altun
University of Cincinnati

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