Procedure level of interest. Observation checklist, researcher’s

Procedure

The
reading programme was carried out from 23 October – 24 November 2017. This  programme took place every day of school day
for 5 weeks right before the end of year school holiday. The first several
classroom sessions were used to orientate students to extensive reading by
instructing them on how to choose books, read extensively, and fill out the
book report. The duration of each reading treatment was for one hour a day, in
which reading mainly occurred inside the English Self-Access Learning room with
the teacher monitoring. This is so that the teacher can ensure that reading is
actually taking place in that particular one hour. Students’ reading was
carefully monitored using a pre-designed observation form to record readers’
behavior and responses. Learners had choice whether or not to refer to the
dictionary or to simply ignore any unfamiliar word. They were in fact
encouraged to keep reading even if they did not understand some of the words. Some
Chinese students were tempted to look for meaning in the dictionaries and I
allowed them if they really feel if there is the need to do that. Most Malay
students did not mind not knowing and proceeded with reading after I have
discouraged the use of dictionary. The reason for this was to avoid interfering
with the reading progress and to allow a more uninterrupted reading. In
addition, since the purpose was for them to have an enjoyable easy reading, it
was crucial that students choose which book they want to read as they
themselves are aware of their own ability.

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After
each book, students have to share their reading with me. According to Green
(2005), GR cannot stand alone, in fact, it is
a reading project where all the language components need to be incorporated
together. By integrating GR with a productive activity like speaking or writing,
it is the best way to ensure the success of comprehension. Therefore, I decided
to have a book report activity in which the readers have to share the story. This
sharing can be in a form of telling it to me either by writing or speaking. Interviews
with the participants were carried out at the end of the reading programme to assess
their level of interest. Observation checklist, researcher’s field notes and reader’s
diaries were kept throughout the reading programme to allow data triangulation.

I
have adopted some of the key features of a classic reading programme  suggested by Day and Bamford (2002) which is
widely used by researchers worldwide. They are as followed:

a)      The
teachers should know about the learner’s book preference

b)      The
students should be reading at their own level of competency

c)      Students
are encouraged to share their reading

d)     Reading
progress are monitored daily

e)      Carried
out in a no threatening way

 

 

Results and Discussion

Students
attitudes towards reading

At
the opening stage of the programme, I was concerned with the learner’s opinions
and feelings in general. Students were interviewed what they think about
reading in their first and second language. Here are some initial responses
from them. “Reading is just painful, you
have to sit there and read passively”. He also commented “Reading is just not my thing” This
particular student finds reading a very difficult activity to do despite
reading in his own first language. Some even responded by saying that they see
no point in reading since they can watch or listen to English materials. They
also reported that mobile devices are much more appealing to them compared to
simple books. This was supported by a number of study which suggested that it
has become increasingly apparent that although students are able to read, they
very rarely choose to do so. Powell (2002) suggested that some of the possible
reasons for this negative development may be the home environment or some
negative experiences of learners at schools. As far as all these reasons are concerned,
it can be speculated that readers did not come from a home environment which
values reading. That is to say that parents who for example do not read to
their children, and do not provide them with enough reading material at home,
directly influence the students’ general attitudes towards reading.

Student’
attitudes towards the programme

The
learners’ attitudes towards the reading programme were observed throughout the
five weeks of reading. The response to the GR was generally positive, although
there was variation among individual students. This in relation suggests
extensive reading impacts not only on reading comprehension but also motivation
(Day and Bamford, 2002). After the third week, they seem to get into the habit
of reading. Without wasting anytime, during the reading hour, students would
come into the Self Access Learning room and started reading independently.  Eventually this practice has become automated
and reading was not as slow as it was before the start of the reading programme.
During the book report, they shared with me about the story in the novel
enthusiastically. It was apparent that they began to develop interest towards
the story in the GR. There was one student who really liked one GR entitled New Yorkers Short Stories by O. Henry.
She liked the fact that the story made her feel surprised when it ended
abruptly with a twist. She said that not many Malay books have such an
interesting storylines. When asked what she felt when she did not understand
some of the words, she responded by saying that after certain point she was
reading for the story line, and no longer feels the need to understand every
word. It was pretty obvious that significant improvements can be seen through
students’ level of interest after participating in the reading activities.

When
questioned about their opinion on the sharing session with me, majority of the students
frequently mentioned that they understood what they read but found it difficult
to share with others. This is a common problem amongst the students since what
they had was a receptive skills practice. I was not at alarmed about this. I
told them that it was okay to tell me the story in their first language as I
was just checking on their comprehension and opinions on the stories they have
read. My belief on delaying  putting
emphasis on their productive domain is in line with Krashen’s theory which
suggested that producing output was not necessary for learners in the early
stage of language acquisition. With time, the production will take place as a
result of the succesful input processing (Krashen, 1990). Therefore, language
teachers should not worry so much about getting the students to talk about what
they understand as the learning will take care of itself once readers have
enough language exposure.

In
one of the interviews carried out at the end of the five-week reading
programme, a student reported that he was more confident to read English books
after reading the Wizard of Oz by L.
Frank Baum. He was reported saying ‘I
never thought that reading could be fun’ and that he has never actually
read that much his whole life. He said that normally easy books are for small
children and the one that suited them in the library are usually difficult and
not simplified. From the observation and interviews, it was found that  by the end of the reading programme, students
had clearly developed  some interest in
reading English books. This was evident from their eagerness to share the story
with me in the post-reading activity. Some of them even asked if they could
read more books once they had finished all the GR available.

This
analysis suggests that GR generally improved student’s motivation and fluency in
reading. Throughout the five-week reading course, the 10 students in this group
whose data was included in this analysis managed to read at least 3 GR on
average. Similarly to a study done by Margado (2009), students were highly
motivated to read more in English after the programme  ended. This finding proposed that Graded
Reading had a positive impact on the students’ reading ability thus increasing
their motivation.

Issues
and challenges

Despite
how much details I have given in setting up the reading task, there were indeed
some challenges in the execution of the plan. First, it was considerably
challenging to get the students to stop talking with each other during the
reading. This was the very reason I planned for the reading to be more
controlled and take place in the English room for an hour a day. The rationale
was to minimize the noise and distraction caused by various factors.
Nonetheless, having some noise by chit-chatting is inevitable and I eventually
realize that constant monitoring is the only solution to this situation. Another
issue that is worth commented on during my observation was students’ reluctance
to read. It was a daunting task to get them to actually read the first page of
the book. Some of them did not have the motivation in the beginning and some of
them did not have the momentum to read at all. Perhaps this  owed to the fact that reading was a very
unfamiliar practice and they just needed some time to get accustomed to it. Fortunately,
by the second week, after a constant encouragement and advice, a few of them
started to play along as the hour was exclusively dedicated to reading.

Conclusion

To
conclude, the inclusion of GR as a form of the extensive reading approach to a reading
classroom in Malaysia allows students to develop positive attitudes towards
reading in English. It brings their attention to the values and knowledge the
literature can offer, told in a more comprehensive manner. On the whole, it
needs to be stated, however that this research has been done over a relatively
short period of time and short-term studies might not reveal the full benefits
of GR. The result of exposure needs a considerably long time to be fruitful.  If graded readers are to be implanted for a number
of years, it would ultimately result in significantly more proficient, keen
readers among the learners of English in any English as a second language
classroom. GR is unquestionably a reading program with the potential to lead
students along a path to independence and resourcefulness in their reading and
language learning.