Vol. 3. No. 2 R-4 March 1998
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True Stories in the News: A Beginning Reader, 2nd edition

Sandra Heyer (1996)
White Plains, NY: Addison Wesley Longman
Pp. ii + 94
ISBN 0-201-84660-8 (paper); 0-201-89882-9 (cassette)
US $11.50 (book), $20.00 (cassette)

True Stories in the News is a beginning level reader with an accompanying cassette. It consists of 94 pages broken up into three sections: 22 units, a note to the teacher, and an answer key. While the introduction to the book states that the book is meant to be a high-beginning reader, the units can be adapted for any level of beginners, for both children and adults. The book does contain enough skill-building activities (reading, listening, writing, and grammar) to be used as a textbook.

Each unit is four pages long and is broken up into five parts: a pre-reading activity, a short text, a vocabulary exercise, a comprehension exercise, a discussion exercise, and a writing exercise. The vocabulary, comprehension, and writing exercises can be done in class or assigned as homework. The answer key is at the back of the book. The accompanying cassette contains a clear recording of the text and can also be used either in class or for individual learning at home.

The pre-reading activity should elicit both interest and a response from the student. A photograph is used which corresponds with the theme of the text. Two sets of questions are given; the first asks the students to describe the photo, and the second asks the students to predict what the content of the text will be.

The texts are short, about half a page each, and contain outrageous (but true) stories which have been taken from the news. One text deals with a German boy who was buried alive and another with a luxury hotel for dogs. Each text is written in short, clear sentences that should introduce students to new vocabulary without being overwhelming.

The vocabulary exercises reinforce new vocabulary taken from the text. The exercises contain four to five questions that range from fill-in answers to choosing the correct meaning. The exercises are meant to reinforce the new vocabulary through context.

The comprehension exercises help build students' ability to understand the main idea of what they are reading, to find details, cause and effect, and information in a text.

The discussion exercises draw attention away from the text to individual students by having them give opinions or descriptions. They may have to give an interview or draw something and then [-1-] discuss it. The discussion topics focus on partner or small group work, which can be very helpful in larger ESL classrooms. For multicultural ESL groups, some of the discussion topics can be used for cultural learning by having students compare their native culture with that of the United States, or with whatever country in which the instruction is taking place.

Most of the writing exercises are structured, varying from completing sentences or making lists, to writing short paragraphs. For more advanced students, these assignments may be too simple, and can then be modified appropriately.

While the book can be used as a textbook (as mentioned above), this may lead to boredom for the unchallenged student because each unit is set up exactly the same. It would be better to use this book as a supplement for reading activities within an integrated classroom. Overall, it is a good book with a lot of possibilities for bringing reading activities into the beginning ESL classroom. The stories that have been chosen are meant to be as interesting as they are instructive for the students.

Alana J. Leichert
Hamburg, Germany

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