The Reading Matrix
Vol. 1, No. 2, September 2001
Reading Connections: Skills and Strategies for Purposeful Reading
Anne Ediger and Cheryl Pavlik (1999)
Two volume series: Intermediate to High Intermediate
New York: Oxford University Press
pp. iv-219 + Appendix 220-237 (High-intermediate level)
ISBN 0-19-435826-7 (High-intermediate level)
pp. iv-203 + Appendix 203-217 (Intermediate level)
ISBN 0-19-435825-9 (Intermediate level)
U.S. $30.50 each
Reviewed by Wendy Sutherland-Smith
Deakin University, Australia
Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) students to actively engage with text and develop independent reading and text analysis skills can be a challenging task. Reading Connections: Skills and Strategies for purposeful reading by Anne Ediger and Cheryl Pavlik is a two volume textbook set targeting Intermediate to High-Intermediate level ESL students who wish to improve academic reading strategies. The authors aim is to present reading "as it is done in the real world" (p.vii) by providing readings set for a specific purpose with relevant exercises. Sub-skills such as learning to follow signal words, prediction and inference strategies provide the scaffolding techniques to achieve true understanding. The authors also aim to improve critical and active reading techniques by providing students with strategies to interact with text and question material independently.
Both books are divided into four themed units of approximately 53 pages each. A preview unit provides brief stimulation to thinking about reading and a series of short examples of reading strategies are given to whet the appetite. There is an Appendix which contains additional reading materials for each unit at the end of the book. The format for both volumes is slightly different, although the aims and strategies are the same, but adapted to the appropriate level.
The high-intermediate level has each unit divided into four sections, Parts A-D. Part A contains the skill focus for the unit, and includes three short readings as well as prediction, discussion and comprehension activities. Part B clearly outlines the purpose of the reading for the topic. For example, in Unit 1 on advertising, the purpose is to elicit sufficient information from the range of reading texts to deliver a written or oral presentation on advertising. Part B gives detailed reading strategies as well as dissection of text activities such as gap-filling, locating key points, prediction of content, and use of layout in reading. This part also contains three readings and the general comprehension activities and discussion topics offered for follow-up exercises form an effective link to Part A. Part C is short and contains hints and strategies for vocabulary building. This section plays a small part in the book, and the skills are broadly-based rather than topic-specific. Part C also contains the Unit task, which is the purpose set for the unit of work. For example the students in Unit 3 on the topic "Mind over Matter" use the readings, discussion and vocabulary built over the unit to write a pamphlet on the mind-body connection and the pamphlet is to target specific audiences. The Unit task is clearly outlined with detailed instructions and guidelines as to how to go about the task, and can easily be adapted by teachers for individual or group work, with either a written or oral focus. Part D contains a number of scenarios for writing, extended discussion and evaluation by students. The end of each unit contains a student self-evaluation checklist, with specific questions designed to find positive reading responses and self-directed goal-setting for future reading.
The Intermediate level text has each unit divided into three sections Parts A-D. Part A contains the reading for a purpose and Unit Task 1, Part B contains Unit task 2 and Part C contains the expansion activities found in the combination of Parts C and D in the high-intermediate volume. Strategies are the same as the high-intermediate level textbook, but there are shorter reading passages with many more comprehension exercises and step-by-step guidance hints as would be expected at a lower level.
The authors indicate intermediate to high-intermediate ESL students are their target populations and both volumes would appear to suit secondary, college-entry or language centre ESL students. For on-campus university course work, a different topic selection would be required, with perhaps a more academic flavour than child-care and love, but the topic selection is appropriate for students seeking undergraduate entry. The layout of the book is such that the reading or vocabulary strategy to be focussed upon is clearly visible as it is boxed and the background is green, which aids some ESL visual learners. The language in the articles selected is appropriate for the level and varied enough to be manageable yet challenging. The textbooks are therefore suited to a wide-range of reading abilities commonly found within the ESL classroom.
A feature of the books is the inclusion of an Internet based reading materials section. This Electronic Link' section offers basic scaffolded navigation strategies for Internet information gathering, but does not progress to offering specific hypertext reading skills or strategies needed for reading Web-text. This section could have been enhanced, perhaps, by printing the Web-sites as they appear on the Internet, thus adding the dimension of "real world" authenticity the authors wish to achieve. The multitude of tasks means the textbooks can be used in ESL classes which are both speaking-based (with reading as the stimulus and writing as extension) or used as a core-text in a reading-to-writing based classroom. The plentiful tasks and activities mean that some tasks are more appropriately modelled and pursued in class, but other activities can easily be set for homework or extra study outside the formal classroom situation. The overall flexibility of the Reading Connection two volume set makes it a valuable addition to ESL classrooms for both teachers and students.