Teaching Reading to Adult Second Language Learners: Theoretical Foundations, Pedagogical Applications, and Current Issues

Meena Singhal. Lowell, MA: The Reading Matrix, 2006. Pp. 249.

Reviewed by Ozgur Yildirim
Anadolu University
Eskisehir, Turkey

Singhal s Teaching Reading to Adult Second Language Learners: Theoretical Foundations, Pedagogical Applications, and Current Issues is a comprehensive text which covers the theoretical and practical aspects of teaching reading in the adult ESL/EFL classroom. Although the book is primarily designed to serve as a resource book for reading teachers, it can also be used as a textbook by language teacher educators.
The author organizes the book in ten chapters with equal emphasis on information, research, and practical application. Serving as a foundation for the other chapters in the book, chapter 1 provides historical perspectives as well as theoretical and practical models of reading. Bottom-up, top-down, interactive reading models, and main pedagogical approaches to the development of reading comprehension are all covered in this chapter. Chapter 2 presents prominent areas of empirical research in second and foreign language reading. Research conducted to identify the relationship between reading comprehension and reading strategies, strategy training, metacognitive awareness, background knowledge, and orthographic knowledge are thoroughly discussed in this chapter. Chapter 3 explores the relationship between computer-assisted instruction and reading. This chapter provides a very well-organized presentation of the foundations of computer-assisted instruction and its application to current ESL/EFL reading classrooms.
Chapter 4 focuses on the connection between reading comprehension and some of the factors that influence reading processes such as cognitive development, L1 proficiency, metacognitive knowledge, and cultural citations. The author closes this chapter with an excellent discussion of pedagogical implications as related to factors influencing reading. The next chapter, chapter 5, is a very useful one in terms of practical application as it provides a battery of reading activities and strategies that can be employed during the pre, during, and post-reading stages of a reading lesson. Addressing an important aspect of teaching reading to adult second language learners, chapter 6 focuses on using literature in the L2 classroom. This chapter not only discusses the theoretical perspectives such as the advantages of using literary texts and criteria for selecting literature, but it also provides a wide variety of examples of activities incorporating literature in the reading classroom.
Chapter 7 points out the importance of vocabulary in reading. The chapter opens with an overview of several approaches to second language vocabulary acquisition and is followed by examples of various methods and strategies in vocabulary teaching. Chapter 8 provides a wide variety of information on another crucial aspect of L2 reading instruction: reading assessment. Journals, portfolios, comprehension questions, communicative tasks, and computer-based testing are some of the various assessment techniques illustrated in this chapter. Chapter 9 goes one step further than planning and implementing a single reading lesson by exploring specific steps involved in designing an entire reading course. Throughout the chapter, examples from various ESL reading courses are used to explain various aspects of a reading course design such as identifying the objectives, selecting the material, and deciding on evaluation tools. Being relatively shorter but equally important and intense, chapter 10 is devoted to the issues of professional development and reflective teaching. This chapter emphasizes the importance of self-evaluation and self-development in order to improve reading classes continuously. It is also worth mentioning that, apart from the main chapters, this book has a nice appendix section which lists various Internet sites related to teaching reading.
Singhal s book is an important resource for teachers and teacher trainers not only because it encapsulates all the crucial aspects of L2 reading instruction, but also because it provides up-to-date information and illustrations about the connection between theory and practice in the areas of ESL and EFL teaching. The successful balance of theoretical and practical information throughout the entire text and well-organized, easy-to-follow chapters make this book ideal for its intended audience. The author could have, however, made the book more appealing to teacher trainers with the addition of some simple tasks and discussion questions specifically designed for pre-service language teachers. Regardless, this book, with its rich content and successful design, is a highly significant contribution to the field .