READING SKILLS IN THE CLASSROOM Essay

It is not easy to give the best definition of literature; evenliterary theorists and critics have difficulty in defining it.

According to Icoz, literature is language in use and so it is notseparable from language. But, in her opinion, literature also involvesmore than language because meanings go beyond it, and the appreciationand enjoyment of reading requires the development of more than justlinguistic capacities. She also claims that a basic understanding oflanguage literary texts is essential but not sufficient to comprehendtheir significiance. (1992:10)Other writers, such as Murdoch (1978), describe literature as a sortof disciplined technique for arousing certain emotions or as simply alanguage charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree. However,there is one undeniable thing – reading books will exert a very greatinfluence on the readers’ personalities. There are many aspects oflife in which literature takes part. This is because there is acontinuous interaction between literature and social life. Readinginfluences both social and emotional development because books teachlove, admiration and will even denounce negative behaviour. Thus,literature is an extension of life, but many of life’s situations areoften an extension of literature as well. Besides, books give readersof all ages much more: – development of intellectual horizons – providing specific knowledge of life, historical events orpsychological theory – forming an outlook on life – promoting aesthetic standardsReading for pleasure involves selecting from a wide range of genresthat include: thrillers, science – fiction, classics, romance andadventure stories.

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Reading is central to the learning process, and as Ghosn points out,”… carefully chosen children’s literature allows children to developtheir receptive language in entertaining, meaningful contexts andnaturally invites them to repeat many of the predictable words andphrases, which children gradually take ownership of and add to theirreceptive and productive language.” (1997)Thus it is advisable to use various books in the classroom, wheneverpossible, and to get students accustomed to a wide range of literaturefrom the very beginning. Teachers should remember that childrenusually tend to read books that are enjoyable, interesting or, inother words, books that are a pleasure to read. The selection of abook should provide both entertainment and at the same time it couldalso be a good source of developing reading skills, which is extremelysignificant in the case of foreign language learners.

As reading is an active process it involves a variety ofskills such as speaking, writing or listening. In order to developthese abilities, several types of exercises can be used in theclassroom. But it is important to remember that many books are meantto be read and enjoyed and too many exercises might spoil the pleasureof reading. It is possible, for example, to develop the learners’power of imagination through systematic practice or questions, whichcan encourage students to expect the content of a text from its titleand illustrations or the end of a story from preceding paragraphs. AsGrellet points out, “This type of exercise has too often requiredstudents to exercise not only their powers ofjudgementandappreciation, but extending the range of these exercises to coverother reading will lead to greater discussion and reflection on thetext. ” (1998:8)I think that, apart from this point of view, there must be variety inthe range of such exercises. This is a very important factor in themotivation and development of reading skills. As I have assumedbefore, reading involves a variety of activities so it should not beseparated from other skills. As Laar and Holderness indicate, readingand writing are linked activities, and children’s ownreadingexperiences will help them to become in the future more reflective,analytical and self – critical audiences. (1994)To sum up, motivation is of great importance in the caseof developing reading skills in the classroom. This is because most ofwhat we usually read are books, magazines and advertisements that wewant to read. However, being motivated by various activities meansthat we start reading a text prepared to find a lot of things in it,expecting to find answers to many questions and specific informationor ideas we are interested in. And this is also a good reason fordeveloping reading skills in the classroom.

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