F.R.O.'s

(Frequently Raised Objections)


Presented at the Summer, 2003, ETAI Conference by Michele Ben, Amanda Caplan, Mitzi Geffen and Adele Raemer


FRO#1: There is no time for reading books. If we do work on these books, we won't have any time to finish the material we need to get through our textbooks.

Response: There is an abundance of theory which points to the benefit of extensive reading: Stephen Krashen, 1989; 1993 (extensive reading improves comprehension and writing, spelling and grammar); Green & Oxford, 1995 (reading for pleasure is strongly related to proficiency); Paul Nation, 1997 (continuous readings at similar levels – one book every week or two – provides repetition and context for vocabulary retention); W.B. Elley, 1991 (extensive reading is best when supported by creative and communicative oral and written productive work).

FRO#2: The books are too difficult – there are too many words the learners don't know.

Response: There are many communicative activities on a variety of levels based on paraphrasing the story or theme of a book. These activities can be used to simplify difficult texts, teach vocabulary and induce student writing. Moreover, if the learners receive a book they are motivated enough to read, they will overcome the obstacle of not understanding some of the vocabulary.

FRO#3: The level of authentic children's books which our learners can understand is not the same developmental, intellectual level as that of our learners.

Response: If a teacher openly recognizes that the book is not on the pupils' developmental level, but gives them a reason to read it anyway, the pupils have been seen to go along with the reading. For example, a childish activity can be an invitation to do something perfectly silly, which appeals to the pupils' sense of frivolity. Another justification might be to prepare a book to read out loud to the rest of the class or to younger learners in the same school or in an elementary school nearby. This can be done even with weak older learners. Alternatively, the pictures (not the text) from the book can be used to write new text.

FRO#4: We receive too many inappropriate books.

Response: There are a number of solutions to this problem. Give such books away to other schools (elementary schools, or different sectors of the population). The higher–level books can be donated to the nearest teachers' colleges. Inappropriate books can be cannibalized (i.e., cut out the pictures and use them in another way), and finally, as a last resort – if the book is in terrible condition and cannot be used in any other way –it can be thrown out. (This has only happened rarely since the books are sorted very carefully before being shipped out).

FRO#5: Kids don't like to read in any language.

Response: There are many different activities that have proved useful in motivating the pupils to read. Learners can help in sorting out the books before they are catalogued and shelved. This exposes the pupils to a variety of books, and they can't help but find one or two to skim through. Some schools impose the "Stop, Drop, Read" policy where, at a specific time, EVERYONE (the learners in all classes, the teachers, even the office staff) stop what they are doing, drop everything and read.

An effective activity is for everyone to pick a book randomly and read it for 15 minutes. Then the pupils sit in a circle and have to read out a representative sentence from the book they have just looked at. The reader decides to either keep the book or put it in the middle. Anyone else can choose a book in the circle to read for their book project. In the end, invariably, everyone has a book.

FRO#6: The books are too long / difficult.

Response: First of all, let the learners choose what they want to read. Sometimes they will choose a book that seems to be above their level, but they are motivated enough to grapple with it. Secondly, teachers should impress on their learners that reading even part of a book is good and legitimate.

FRO#7: The teachers haven't read all the books; kids aren't allowed to read books the teacher hasn't read.

Response: Who says? Find out about the books from the learners themselves, by either informal discussions, literature circles or through creative book projects.

FRO#8: Being involved in the project entails a lot of extra work.

Response: Yes, it does, but it is certainly worth the time and effort! In addition to the direct benefits gained by receiving books from the "Books for Israel" project, there are other "fringe" benefits. There are opportunities to develop pen–pal projects between the donors and the recipients, engage in internet activities included on this website, authentic opportunities for writing thank–you letters in English, as well as actual visits from the donors.


References


Green, J. M., & Oxford, R. (1995). A closer look at learning strategies, L2 proficiency and gender. TESOL Quarterly, 29(2), 261-297.
Krashen, S.D. 1989. We acquire vocabulary and spelling by reading: Additional evidence for the Input Hypothesis. Modern Language Journal 73.4:440-464.
Krashen, S.D. 1993. The Power of Reading. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited.
Nation, P. (1997). The language learning benefits of extensive reading. The Language Teacher Online.


If you have any other objections, write in to the website using the Discussion tab above. We would love to hear about your experiences, and will endeavour to respond to all your queries.