English Language Study Skills and the Internet (ELSSI)

Computer connecting to Internet

Module 3: Reading Skills
ELSSI Navigation

In this module, we will start with the following questions:

(1) Why is reading so important for our study of English?

(2) What does it mean to be a good reader?

(3) What kinds of reading materials are most useful for our English studies?

(4) Where can we find these kinds of materials on the Internet?

First, reading is important as a foundation for building vocabulary and improving your other language skills. Being able to read fluently and accurately will help you learn new words and phrases, write better sentences and give you confidence in listening and speaking. One of our main goals in this course is to help you enjoy reading in English and become a good reader.

What does it mean to be a good reader? Again, the keywords are fluent and accurate. Reading quickly is important because this helps you follow the overall story or message. Reading without mistakes is important for both the overall story/message and catching the details. Both of these subskills deserve our attention, but they are different kinds of practice. In the early stages, you may want to work on one at a time.

One mistake at the early stages of learning a new language is trying to read material that is too difficult. Instead, we should choose material that we can mostly understand. Ideally, we should understand over 95% of what we are reading. With this kind of reading, we can make good guesses even if we don't understand a new word. We can continue reading without stopping to look up new words.

Also, we should enjoy what we are reading. If we don't, reading will seem like a struggle and we will find ways to avoid it. When looking for reading material, think about the topics and kinds of stories you are most interested in. Hopefully, you will begin to enjoy reading and want to spend more time doing it in English.

It might be helpful to think about two different kinds of reading, intensive and extensive. The following table lists the differences.

General understanding and enjoyment
Language study
Easy (graded readers)
Often difficult (material for native speakers
A lot
Not much
Fast and fluently
Little or none if possible
A lot

* Note: Adapted from Welch (1997).

Both kinds of reading are important, but extensive reading can help you start to enjoy reading more. Again, you will probably spend more time reading in English if it is enjoyable.

So, where can we find easy and interesting materials on the Internet?

One source of easy reading material are websites designed for children or young adults. The trick though is to find material that is both easy to read (remember the 95% discussion above) and interesting.

One collection is Online Children's Stories maintained by David Brown at University of Calgary.

Another website with stories for different age groups is Children's Storybooks Online. There is also a list of links with even more stories.

One more list of reading links is available at 4kids.com.

Aesop's Fables
are good reading material because they are short and meaningful.

The Reader's Theater page maintained by Aaron Shepard includes stories written as play scripts.

The Whootie Owl website also includes a collection of play scripts.

Remember to look for stories that are easy to read and interesting. You should try your best to read all the way through a story or script, but don't be afraid to stop if it is too difficult or not interesting.

Finally, we should read as much as possible. The positive effects of reading in English will increase with the amount of reading we do. You don't have to spend all of your time reading, but 20 or 30 minutes everyday will really pay off. The Links section below includes websites with more online materials and information about extensive reading. You can also visit John's ESL if you would like some more advice about reading.

Welch, R. A. (1997). Introducing extensive reading. The Language Teacher, 21 (5), 51-53.

(1) Visit some of the websites mentioned above and in the Links section below. Take notes on which sites are easiest to use and include material you might be interested in.
(2) Find one story you think is both easy and interesting. Start reading and try not to use a dictionary.

(1) E-mail me the title of the story you chose by 11/1 (Mon). Include the URL and a simple summary.
(2) Participate in the ELSSI Forum at MSN Groups. Initial postings will be due on 11/1 (Mon) and responses to at least two classmates will be due on 10/25 (Mon).
(3) Post your notes (from #1 above), thoughts, questions and comments about reading and this module to your blog. Due by 11/8 (Mon).

Bartleby.com - Search for online books and encyclopedia entries.
ESL Cybersite - Collection of links to online research resources.
Elementary Library - Includes some interactive stories with sound.
Book Hive - Listen to stories being read aloud.
Online Reading Lab - Short articles with comprehension questions (Maintained by William Balsamo).
ESL Vocabulary Lists - Collection of vocabulary lists. These are useful for checking your own reading level.
English at Home - Includes a few short articles.
Oxford University Press - Catalogue of graded readers.
Penguin - Information on graded readers and Penguin Dossiers reading exercises.
Cambridge University Press - List of titles with short summary.
Extensive Reading - Growing collection of resources related to extensive reading.
Online Reading with English Dictionary - Links to online articles.
ESL: Reading - List of online resources maintained by the Internet TESL Journal.

ELSSI Navigation

- Introduction
  This is the ELSSI homepage.

- Syllabus
  Includes course description, goals and other useful information.

- Schedule
  A list of starting and ending dates for each module.

- Evaluation
  Grading rubric for evaluating learner performance and survey to evaluate the course.

- Module One
- Module Two
- Module Four
- Module Five
- Module Six
- Module Seven

Foundation - base, starting point
Fluently - quickly and smoothly
Accurately - correctly, without mistakes
Confidence - belief that you can do something
Ideally - for best results
Struggle - a fight; hard work
Avoid - run away from
Pay Off - bring some good results

This course was designed and developed as a requirement for the L630 Course Development for Online Educators course through the Education Department at Indiana University.
The work of both Karen Hallett and Eileen Cotton provided inspiration for the content and organization of this course. This page was created with Netscape Navigator Gold.

Contact Information
For more information, email me at bjones_jp@yahoo.com.

This page last updated on September 12, 2004.
Copyright © 2004 Brent A. Jones. All rights reserved.