As I scanned through my children’s summer reading list compiled by their elementary school, I began to think of the the types of reading I’ve recommended to adult ELLs during time-off from studies. I began to see some parallels, not in titles, of course, but in the nature of the assignment.
- A recommended, realistic amount. My children are being asked to read at least three titles on their lists in the next two months. I think it’s helpful to state a minimum in order to prompt actual reading. Too large of an assignment usually makes procrastination easier to do. When I convinced a friend and non-native English speaker of the benefits of reading, she announced with determination that she would read a whole novel and do so swiftly. The “quick as possible” approach worried me. I suggested just a couple pages a day. That way she could always read more when time and energy allowed, but two pages a day was a realistic commitment for her. I was proud of her when a couple months later she finished the first book I had lent her.
- Personal choice. I appreciate that there are concrete recommendations by my children’s school, but titles not on the list are also allowed. Students will read when it’s truly their choice. I like to pinpoint a learner’s interests and needs and then make recommendations. For example, when I have an adult studying English for professional use, I may offer a list of a couple news sites and suggest a daily scan of the headlines and summaries. When time and energy allow, a full article can be read. For a mother of young children, I’ve recommended some online children’s stories that can be listened to or read online… and on demand.
- Accountability. My children will be asked to recall the books they read in a short assignment once they return to school this fall. The knowledge that someone expects you to meet the minimum can serve as further encouragement to actually do the assignment. When I know I will not meet with a private student for a few weeks, I often assigned one “meaty” news article that has both a text and a podcast. I ask the student to read and listen to the content more than once so that we can base our next lesson on what was learned about the topic.
What I don’t see on the summer reading list from the public schools in our area is a great amount of variety in terms of genre. The children will be reading a lot of fiction. Luckily, my kids like to read and I know they’ll continue reading non-fiction as well as poetry. Adult ELLs should also be encouraged to try reading different types of texts so that they are reading for different purposes: for information, for entertainment, and for inspiration. I find short poems and short stories can easily entertain and inspire. Here are a few possibilities:
I’ll also add the suggestion of recommending commencement speeches to ELLs. These texts are written to inspire and many succeed in doing that. Have you ever based a lesson on one? Here’s a link to some possibilities. You can have students read one address during a break and then base exercises on it in your next lesson.