Reading is the process of building meaning by interacting with a text; and a strategy " is a plan selected deliberately by the reader to accomplish a particular goal". [ Paris, Lipson & Wixon, 1983]
When learning a language, reading is an important skill that will help the learner memorise vocabulary, get familiar to grammar structures and develop the necessary speaking skills in the new language.
In this article I will focus on the benefits of recreational reading.
Recreational reading is when the language learners decides to read materials in the target language just for fun or to gather information on a specific subject of interest independently from assignments they might get while learning the new language. This allows them to find a wide range of materials, that they find pleasurable whilst they are acquiring knowledge as well as being informed.
Recreational reading helps learners improve by increasing their comprehension of the foreign language as well as their vocabulary pool and their fluency. These allow the students to be kept interested in the learning process by feeling motivated, inspired and obtaining a sense of achievement. Overall their general knowledge and writing skills improve considerably.
Recreational reading helps learners improve their comprehension of the foreign language
What materials should learners use?
This can include many materials selected by learners in a wide range of topics that they find interesting. They should create a habit by reading consistently for pleasure and for gathering information about the subjects of their interest. All the materials chosen should be at the learners’ level. Difficult texts will discourage them and have a counterproductive effect on their learning.
They should always bear in mind when choosing, that the main objective is their enjoyment. They might learn about the culture of the people speaking their target language and enhance their understanding of a world outside their own.
The materials can be found in specialised bookstores, libraries, on amazon where a variety of ebooks would also be available.
The main objective for reading should be enjoyment
When involved in a reading exercise, students should create strategies to ensure that the input they are receiving is comprehensible. They should strive to understanding the contents and avoid to break them down grammatically.
Learners need not to understand the reading texts in their totality, the meaning of unfamiliar words can be guessed in context. Visual information, when provided, can be very useful in helping make sense of a passage.
In early stages, learners tend to focus more in the process of pronouncing words accordingly, but as they progress, they will pay more attention to understanding what the text is about in one word: comprehension.
Comprehension after all is the whole point of the reading exercise. Students should learn to make sense of the received information so that they can become proficient readers.
Monitoring will help students be aware of their degree of comprehension of the texts. They will quickly find out when they make a mistake or lack of understanding of the passage and they must learn to apply strategies to help them get back on track. Monitoring is an excellent tool not only at the beginner’s stage, but also for more advanced students who are not yet 100% fluent.
When students use metacognition, they think about their thinking
Metacognition is defined as awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes.
It is a strategy student should use when reading.
When students use metacognition, they think about their thinking as they read, and this allows them to fix any comprehension breakdown as it happens.
From kathy Collins'book: Growing Readers
In the book Growing Readers by Kathy Collins, she suggests students to ask themselves the following questions as they read:
Does it look right and sound right?
Can I picture the story?
Can I retell the story?
Does my mind feel good?
If the answer is ‘No’ students should:
Sound it out
If something doesn’t still make sense when they’ve tried re-reading, they should make a note on a sticky and investigate later.
Monitoring can be a difficult activity for some. It takes practice but the results are unprecedented when done properly.