Image: Jahanara, a pre-entry ESOL student at Northampton College
Lecturer Liz Arbós uses Reading Ahead to encourage students attending her Saturday pre-entry English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes at Northampton College to read for pleasure. She told us recently about the positive impact this has had.
My students come from all over the world. Some have experience of schooling and the education system in their home country, but many do not and therefore have very little experience of reading and writing even in their mother tongue.
I wanted my students to experience all the opportunities that are available to more able students - not only because it would help their learning, but to give them an opportunity to become more involved in college life, make new friends and practice their English.
So one of the programmes I enrolled them on was Reading Ahead. With the support of the college's library staff we adapted it a little to help them. For example, we worked together in the class to create sentences that they could then copy into their reading diaries.
Reading is all about the adventure
Almost every week we went to the college library, where they could choose books they liked the look of, and then they would spend time reading, to themselves, to me and even to each other. The more experienced readers helped the less experienced; they worked together and helped each other. There was never a week when they didn't want to read or go to the library. Durga (pictured left with Tharisini) said she liked it "because she could change books and find new ones."
In just over a term the majority of the class had completed the Reading Ahead challenge. So during one of our sessions, we held a small ceremony at the college's Lower Mounts campus for them to receive their certificates. The students were so happy. They knew they had achieved something special and this has encouraged them to keep reading.
To me, reading for pleasure is really important, not only because it aids learning, but also because it can be an escape from the real world. Reading can open up new experiences, through fiction or non fiction. It can take you places that you have never been and places that you can't go in real life. Reading is all about the adventure.
Students have more confidence
When talking about their Reading Ahead experience the majority of the students said that they loved it. Tharsini said that she had enjoyed learning the new words. Hai (right) said "it was fun", while Adar said that "sometimes books are hard and I have no time to read." They all say now they read things everywhere and recognise more words and, even if they don't understand everything, they have more confidence.
The greatest star is a lady from Bangladesh, Jahanara (pictured, top) who is in her fifties and has lived in England for over 24 years. She came to my class speaking very little English; she struggled to write much herself and had never read a book before. Since September she has slowly became more confident in talking to others; she writes most of her notes herself each session, and she even writes on the whiteboard.
But her biggest achievement is that she has read her very first book. Indeed, Jahanara has completed the Reading Ahead challenge and is still reading. Every few weeks she goes to the library and gets new books. She is reading at home with her family and she loves it. When I asked her how she felt about reading, she said: "I so happy - thank you."
She should be so proud of herself and her achievement. I can't express how proud of her I am and to have shared this experience with her is something I will never forget. (Pictured to the left - me with Jahanara.)
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