The importance of reading on teaching and learning

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Reading is crucial for learning a language. especially, reading extensively is even much more important.

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  • 1. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010 Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION What are current problems of Vietnamese students on learning English? In the condition that our educational system is in chaos and crisis than ever and our typical learning style teacher-oriented method, book-centered method for thousands of year, undoubtedly, the learners are a bit passive. They receive and wait for what the teacher gives them. That sharpens learners attitudes from generation to generation. Learners much or less have a tendency to rely on the teachers. As Prof. Hong Ty, our education system is on the crisis. For the current fact in Vietnamese education system, students usually think that studying is to pass the exams, getting some certificates or degrees. As the bitter truth, multiple-choice method is nationwide dominant one. What students actually learn is not an actual language but skills or tips to deal with the test. Even though teachers with the attention to apply new methods also have to consider whether it should be used or not, whether it meets students expectation passing the exam. The requirements have been rooted into students minds for a long time until it shaped a habit. Furthermore, our government and Ministry of Education and Training (MOET) put high requirement on the degrees or certificates. Those above lead to the sad reality in education nowadays. There is an alarming increase in the number of learners illusory learning (Prof. Hong Ty) style. Therefore, it should be a necessity for innovation in education in different aspects. Its the need to generate measures that can lower learners anxiety. This leads to the concept of weight exercise and light reading teaching model. Learning English is a process of heavy practice to memorize vocabulary, a number of grammar rules. Most the time in the class used for practice these activities. Generally, proficiency is still emphasized more heavily than performance. In Vietnamese education, students are quite familiar with bottom-up process. It sounds like students are put into a forest, finding out different kinds of trees there; once they get out that forest, they have no idea about its location, type of the forest, and things like that. In the mean time, majority of learners who have learned English since the sixth grade, still feel that their English is very poor .What is worse, they cannot express their thought even they have done the test excellently. And the question how to learn English well? is asked more often than ever. Most of English learners find it difficult not only in how to remember vocabulary but also how to apply it in practice. Since they most try to remember it separately with the context, repeating and writing the words for thousands times. Some can remember the words, some cannot. Even those who remember still find it difficult in applying into speaking and writing. They dont know where they put the words correctly, whether its appropriate to put them there, sometimes using the wrong words just because they roughly translate them from mother tongue into target language. Vietnamese students are good at 1 Thao Le Thanh
  • 2. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010 grasping grammar structures. However, it seems too difficult for them to apply those in speaking and writing since what they are taught is concrete and separated from the broader context. The nature of grammatical structures is sometimes overlapped, that leads to confusion among learners. It is found that learners have difficulty in writing as well. Their compositions simply just look like a combination of words and sentences. They usually use the wrong words as well as use words repeatedly just simply because their range and volume of English is still in a small scope. For those reasons above, its a necessity to find a perfect way that can solve all the problems English learners are facing. According to Krashen (1993), reading is extremely important in learning English. He emphasizes reading is the only way to become a good reader, develop a good writing style, an adequate vocabulary, advanced grammar, and the only way to become a good speller. Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW I. Definition of Reading Reading has been defined as the meaningful interpretation of written or printed verbal symbols and a result of interaction between the perception of graphic symbols that represent language and the readers language skills, cognitive skill, and knowledge of the world. (Albert J. Harris and Edward R. Sipay, 1985). In addition, James Paul Gee (2008, p.45) states that literacy practices are almost always fully integrated with, interwoven into, constituted as part of, the very texture of wider practices that involve talk, interaction, values, and beliefs. In other words, reading is the process of decoding graphic symbols involving talking, thinking, interacting, valuing, integrating skills, and believing. It is also the process of interaction between the text and our previous knowledge. II. Types of Reading: There Are Two Types of Reading 1. Intensive reading (IR): 1.1 What is intensive reading? Intensive means something deep or intense. In IR, students go slowly and carefully to understand every detail in the text. In the words of a Chinese professor of English, Xu Guozhang, there are a lot of items in English attract students when students read intensively: from word form to phrasal verb, from preposition to synonym and antonym and even suffixes and prefixes are also worth studying. This easily leads to the fact of trying to figure out exactly the meaning of each word by looking up the dictionary. Text for students practice are often in form of distinguish the main idea from the detail, finding pronoun references or even 2 Thao Le Thanh
  • 3. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010 guessing the meaning of unknown words (Richard R., 1997). These forms of practices are usually recognized in IELTS test. 1.2 Why ESL students read intensively? Xu Guozhang (2009) stated that IR lays down a solid foundation in English. It provides learners vocabulary, grammar points, even idioms or proverbs. Brown (2007) completely agreed with the idea: this is a classroom-oriented activity in which linguistic or semantic detail of a passage is more focused which benefits first learners. Because of its basic characteristic, it basically develops learners other skills in studying English, too. 2. Extensive reading (ER): 2.1 What is extensive reading? While IR plays a crucial role in developing learners reading skill, IR itself restrain students fluency and confidence since it slows speed and allows students to have a pause too many times to look up the new words in the dictionary to meet a better understanding of grammar and vocabulary. (Julian B. and Richard R., 1997). For this reason, ER calls for many researchers attention and is always appreciated as well as encouraged in reading teaching and learning. In the words of Allan M. (2008), ER allows students to freely choose various kinds of text types and topics interested to them. In other words, their reading usually aims at pleasure, information and knowledge. There are no or just few exercises or tasks followed. Using dictionary is, of course, not to keep the reading speed smooth and fast. Allan continued with the role of teacher in teaching students ER as a model and more important, teacher needs to give students a clear explanation about the goal and procedure to make sure they are in the right track. Julian B. and Richard R. (1997) supported those ideas that in ER, readers are more concerned with the meaning of the text than the meaning of individual words. 2.2 Why do ESL students read extensively? Freely choosing favorite materials to read as much as possible is a good way, according to Julian B. and Richard R. (1997), to develop a taste for foreign language reading. In this case, reading to them is very natural and autonomous. They read willingly and certainly, they can visualize and interpret what they read in their own way (Allan M., 2009). In this way, readers even consciously or unconsciously, they open wide their knowledge about everything in the world, especially, the culture. This knowledge would be the idea resources for learners to write, speak and then, turning back, it is the background knowledge to read other materials. Krashen (2004) believed that reading as much as possible is a powerful tool to impetus reading skill, writing style, vocabulary and even grammar as well as spelling. This 3 Thao Le Thanh
  • 4. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010 is actually a process of increasing second language competence which, as Grabe (1991) mentioned, helps learners to boost learners confidence with extended texts and as Allan M. (2009), to create and sustain motivation to further reading. If traditional reading makes students feel bored, now, ER makes them becomes eager readers. (Mason and Krashen, 1997). Another benefit of ER is to make students recognize and exploit redundant elements in reading texts. According to Timoth B. (1998), word by word reading may lead to overloading to successfully interpret the message. Therefore Kalb (1986) always appreciated ER because of its minimizing textual redundancy to help students read faster and get more useful information. We can see that both IR and ER provide students good opportunities to read. ER, nevertheless, is much more beneficial due to its power to go beyond what is called read only. Fascinating features are there, but applying ER in teaching and learning is not easy at all. 2.3 The influence of educational system in Vietnam on applying extensive reading: To have a deeper understanding about teaching and learning in Vietnam toward ER, its necessary to have an overview on education system in Vietnam. Education in Vietnam centralizes the traditional view of teacher-student relationship which supports teacher-centered methods and where structured curriculum dominates. (Le V. 2000). Due to the limit of time, the learning environment focuses on the exams. According to Nguyen (2002), This kind of exam-oriented style strongly affects learners motivation and learning styles. Choosing reading strategies and reading materials, therefore, mostly supply the requirements of nation grammar-based examinations. (Liem D. 2006). It is obviously that there is no time for applying ER in class. One more reason makes IR more popularly used not only in Vietnam, but also in other educational system is that it helps to eliminate the gap between various-level students in class. (Joseph K, n.d). In the class, there is always diversity among students. Applying IR method is also an effective way to make many not good students not feel that they are left behind. For many obstacles, ER is now still rarely used, especially, in Vietnam. 4 Thao Le Thanh
  • 5. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010 III. The importance of Reading to English Learners To pronunciation improvement Reading aloud helps learners learn better, especially pronunciation. Whisper reading can help learners understand the conceptual information and inspire their imagination as well as guessing. Both types of reading are very useful for learners. Determining when we should use intensive and extensive or combination of both is really important. To vocabulary enrichment Michael P. Critchley pointed out the importance of reading on vocabulary acquisition. He also showed out disadvantages of detextualization the word lists. A numbers of educational researchers admitted that there is a strong correlation between reading and academic success. In fact, through reading, readers gain a vast vocabulary and essential knowledge, structures of individual sentence as well as a piece of writing. Therefore, developing reading competence is essential for academic achievement (Paul Shoebottom). To spelling capability There are numbers of research about the correlation between reading and spelling. Obviously, the more students have chance to interact and see the language, the better they remember the words. According to Susan Jones (2009), the correlation between spelling and reading comprehension is because both depend on a common denominator: proficiency with language. The more deeply and thoroughly a student knows a word, the more likely he or she is to recognize it, spell it, define it, and use it appropriately in speech and writing. For relaxation Reading is a kind of relaxation, reading on the bus, while waiting, etc. Therefore, its necessary but not very easy to get in the habit of reading. Michele Miller (2004) carried a small research at Pasco High School about reading and relaxation and found that its helpful for students to read just for relaxation in a student coffee shop. There are a lot of positive responses to this program. To readers spiritual development According to Jennifer L. Plaskota, reading has a contribution in developing students spirituality in Beyond Literacy: the Influence of Reading and Stories on Childrens Spiritual Formation. Its no doubt that every reading text helps to enrich our knowledge as well as moral lessons underneath the words. Therefore, besides grasping words, grammar, writing format, readers also learn a lot from the texts. However, reading usually stops at the level of analyzing the surface structures vocabulary, grammar points and translation, and there is a little attention on discovering what embedded in it. Lisa Davis (2005) stated that reading is the foundation for developing an understanding of conceptual information and it sparks imagination. In fact, reading plays a not less important role in developing humans brains. 5 Thao Le Thanh
  • 6. THE IMPORTANCE OF READING HCMC OPEN UNIVERSITY, VN October 7, 2010 For enhancement writing skill Its no wonder that reading and writing are the mutual interactive skills. There is a close relationship between reading and writing format. The more they read...

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