Cover to Cover 1: Reading Comprehension and Fluency

Writer(s): 
Naomi Fujishima, Okayama University
Publisher: 
Oxford: Oxford University Press

 

[Richard R. Day and Junko Yamanaka. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. pp. iv + 171. \3,000. (incl. CDs, teacher’s book). ISBN-13: 978-0-19-475813-0.]

Cover to Cover is a three-level series of textbooks that develops reading comprehension and fluency. Each unit is divided into three parts—the first two sections concentrate on intensive reading strategies and the third section focuses on extensive reading (ER) by introducing an extract from the Oxford Bookworms graded reader series. For this review, I have used selected units from Cover to Cover 1 in aone-semester Extensive Reading with Discussion elective course. The students were university level ranging from 1st year to 3rd year at various levels of ability.

The decision to use Cover to Cover was made because it was a good way for students to learn reading skills that would build up their fluency while at the same time read about topics that were of interest to them. At the end of one unit, students took a survey about their impression of Cover to Cover. It was clear from their comments that the book raised the students’ motivation to read in English. Many wrote that the stories were interesting and made them want to learn more about the topic. With the variety of intensive and extensive reading exercises, the ultimate goal of this book is to practice strategies that help students understand reading passages better and help increase their fluently. In this way, students can appreciate the joy of reading for pleasure. In addition to building reading skills, there are numerous opportunities for students to practice speaking, with group or pair discussions to reflect on the passages.

In Cover to Cover 1, some of the comprehension strategies covered in Part One include looking for main ideas, guessing meaning from context, recognizing points of view, and recognizing reference words. In Part Two, fluency strategies such as scanning, skimming for the main idea, ignoring unknown words, and predicting the topic are touched upon. Each part has pre-reading questions for discussion, so students can think about the topic before starting the reading passages. Next, there is an explanation of the strategy to be practiced and then the reading passage itself. It is clear that the authors chose topics for each unit that would interest university students, especially in Japan. They also very skillfully chose passages that had the same theme in each part. For example, in the unit Sleep, the passage in Part One talks about people getting enough sleep in today’s society. The passage in Part Two describes a young Korean student who survives on 3 and a half hours of sleep a day. Finally, the excerpt in Part Three, titled The President’s Murderer, is about an escaped convict who is found asleep in an old woman’s field. In this way, students can look at different and interesting aspects of the same theme. The graded reader excerpts are longer than the passages in Parts One and Two, and are designed to encourage students to read more.This textbook effectively fosters the curiosity and motivation in students that promote further learning.

The teacher’s book is helpful for people who have not had much experience in teaching ER. It outlines the benefits of ER and how it introduces reading for enjoyment to students. This is especially beneficial for students in Japan as they are often only exposed to intensive reading and grammar translation-type activities. By introducing students to ER, they can find out for themselves how fun and easy it can be to read in their second language. These are key points in building up student motivation and a positive attitude to read more (Day & Bamford, 1998). Not only does the book give a good introduction to ER, it exposes students to effective reading strategies that will help them to become skilled readers themselves. (For more information on developing reading strategies, see Carrell, 1998). In the teacher’s book, there are step-by-step instructions on how to teach each part of the units with answer keys for all of the exercises. In addition, there are photocopiable reading and vocabulary logs so students can keep track of graded readers that they read outside of the classroom.

For this textbook to be used to its full potential, it is important to have a library of graded readers for students to choose from. The book could be used on its own, but it would not let students get the most out of their reading experience. I would also recommend this book for any 1-year course, but it is too long and costly for a 1-semester course. Perhaps in the future, the authors would consider a split edition to rectify this problem. Overall,Cover to Cover is the perfect start for a reading course that emphasizes reading for fun and, at the same time, improving students’ overall English skills.

 

References

Carrell, P. L. (1998). Can reading strategies be successfully taught? Retrieved August 6, 2008, from <www.jalt-publications.org/tlt/files/98/mar/carrell.html>.

Day, R. R. & Bamford, J. (1998). Extensive reading in the second language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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