Selecting extensive reading materials

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Soffía
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Re: Selecting extensive reading materials

Postby Soffía » Sat Jul 02, 2016 3:57 pm

reineke wrote:Jumping from the highest graded readers to ungraded novels: Four case studies
Jez Uden & Diane Schmitt

Abstract

This study follows a small group of learners in the UK to the end of a graded reading program using the Cambridge Readers and investigates whether this particular graded reading series provides a bridge to reading unsimplified novels for pleasure. The participants’ reading comprehension, reading rates, vocabulary text coverage, and overall affect were measured and used for comparison between two of the highest level Cambridge Readers and two ungraded novels. The four books were also analysed to investigate the potential ‘gap’ in vocabulary coverage between graded and ungraded fiction. The overall results revealed that learners can progress from a graded reading
program using the Cambridge Readers to reading unsimplified novels for pleasure, but are likely to experience a reduction in vocabulary coverage from over 98% to around 95%. It was also found that the gap between graded and unsimplified novels may not be as big as previously thought.

http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/rfl/April2014/articles/uden.pdf


How interesting that there's a whole journal on the subject of Reading in a Foreign Language! Thanks for the link.

It's fascinating to me that the students in the study were at a B2 level and yet they were still on graded readers – and that there was some doubt whether they could 'make the jump' to native literature. I'd always understood that one of the foundational definitions of B2 reading ability is "I can understand contemporary literary prose."

I'm certain I started extensive reading of native novels before I 'should' have done, probably at more like a high B1. But then I don't think there are any graded readers available in Icelandic. The first romance novel that I struggled my way through was fairly hard going, but after a year and a half, and around 3000 pages, I can now read... not all contemporary literary prose, but a good deal of it.
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Re: Selecting extensive reading materials

Postby Tomás » Sat Jul 02, 2016 10:06 pm

Zegpoddle wrote:Does anyone know of similar sites that grade text samples in other languages? Knowing the grade level of a text will not tell you how close you are to the magical 98% threshold that Nation recommends, but you could try reading books at various grade levels, see how difficult they are for you, and eventually identify what your ideal grade level is in your target language. For pleasure reading, you obviously want a level that is easy for you to read. For language acquisition, Stephen Krashen claims that you want a level of "i+1," meaning just a bit beyond easy for you, i.e. with a word that is new to you every once in a while.

Graded reader series try to spare you the effort of figuring out a text's difficulty level by labeling it for you, sometimes not very precisely, and different publishers use different grading systems. You are right, unfortunately, that they tend to be very expensive for what they are. No one wants to pay US$7-20 (or more with shipping) for a slim book that they will probably read only once and then, as they advance in proficiency in that language, will not need or want to read ever again. However, there is a way around this. If your local library offers an Interlibrary Loan service, you can borrow many graded readers for free. This has already saved me hundreds of dollars. Most interlibrary loans require you to fill out a detailed request form, so you will need to have the publication information (title, author, ISBN number, etc.) at hand ahead of time, as well as the OCLC number, which you can get off of http://www.worldcat.org/ for almost any book. Not all libraries can acquire all titles, since it depends on availability and agreements between library systems, but I've had success in getting about two-thirds of the graded reader titles that I've requested. Once they located a book for me in Canberra, Australia and shipped it all the way to Phoenix, Arizona for me to borrow for just one month--and I didn't have to pay a cent! (Make sure you return everything on time in excellent condition, and be very nice to the library staff. Interlibrary Loan [ILL] is a privilege that can be rescinded from sloppy or negligent borrowers.)

Contact your library to see if they have this service. If you live in or near a big city, go to the main or central library, not to a branch in the system. Most large university libraries also have an ILL desk or department. You may as well avail yourself of this "free" service, since you have already paid for it in the form of taxes. It's the perfect solution for books that you want to read, but not buy or own (or write in).


All colleges and universities in the US have ILL service. Myself I can't stand graded readers. They are so boring. Comic books are much more fun. I memorized the HF vocab while doing the first 70 lessons in Assimil and then jumped straight into native materials. I do use the audio for graded readers to listen to in the car.

Readlang estimates the CEFR level of any text you upload to it. I don't know exactly how he arrived at his estimation algorithm. He mentioned some vague description of the components on his blog.
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Re: Selecting extensive reading materials

Postby aokoye » Sun Jul 03, 2016 12:40 am

paz wrote:3) so, the next step, as suggested by Arguelles and Nation, is to determine the vocabulary size - in terms of approximate number of word families known - of the learner. To do so, they use a vocabulary size test.

4) then we have to select appropriate materials, that is to say texts that provide 98% textual coverage. The learner should read extensively at that level until the percentage of unknown words drops perceptibly. To calculate this percentage, they use a Text Analysis software.
Example: we know 7000 word families. We'll select a text whose vocabulary covers, for the 98% the 7000 threshold.

The problem is that, the point 3 and point 4 tools are not avaible for every language. So, how do you do?

For the moment I am thinking about:
A) Bilingual books, that are not so common
B) Graded books, that are quite expensive

I would like to know, since we have the possibility of finding huge amounts of free ebooks online, if you know a way to categorize books for vocabulary size.


Other problems: it isn't realistic to assume that everyone can easily test their vocabulary size. Not everyone is going to have access to corpus tools (the "text analysis software") and as you said, there aren't good corpora for every language. And then another one, even for languages in which there are corpora, most (good) corpora are very expensive to gain access to. A major exception is BYU's COCA and their British English corpus.
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Re: Selecting extensive reading materials

Postby reineke » Sun Jul 03, 2016 4:11 am

Soffía wrote:
reineke wrote:Jumping from the highest graded readers to ungraded novels: Four case studies

http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/rfl/April2014/articles/uden.pdf


How interesting that there's a whole journal on the subject of Reading in a Foreign Language! Thanks for the link.

It's fascinating to me that the students in the study were at a B2 level and yet they were still on graded readers – and that there was some doubt whether they could 'make the jump' to native literature. I'd always understood that one of the foundational definitions of B2 reading ability is "I can understand contemporary literary prose."

I'm certain I started extensive reading of native novels before I 'should' have done, probably at more like a high B1. But then I don't think there are any graded readers available in Icelandic. The first romance novel that I struggled my way through was fairly hard going, but after a year and a half, and around 3000 pages, I can now read... not all contemporary literary prose, but a good deal of it.


Children's bilingual books:
Er ég smá? Am I small?
Sofðu rótt, litli úlfur - Sleep Tight, Little Wolf
...
Eventually one could ramp it up to Ævintýri Lísu í Undralandi.
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Re: Selecting extensive reading materials

Postby sfuqua » Sun Jul 03, 2016 5:11 am

If you really want to read it, you can get a lot of fun out of a book at the 80% comprehension level.

98% is just to be able to understand and read with pretty complete comprehension.

When i was studying Samoan, there were no novels, there were no readers.
I made myself a rule that I would read everything in the (weekly) Samoan langauge newspaper. I would look ahead one seventh of the paper and underline every unknown word, and then work with my tutor to come up with a translation. The next day I would memorize the list of words and review the words from one day, three days, and seven days earlier. Then I would read and reread the page(s) with the words until my designated three hours of study was up. In the beginning, I spent most of my time memorizing word lists and less time reading and rereading. Later, as the number of words to learn decreased, I would read the passage more times, Eventually, I had a hard time finding a word I didn't know, and I started adding in pages from the Bible (the only other written Samoan around). Eventually I was reading big sections of the Bible, an hours worth, and I was only finding very few new words. About that time I declared victory.

This isn't an answer to the original question; I'm just pointing out that intensive reading is an alternative to graded readers or childrens' books.
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Re: Selecting extensive reading materials

Postby Soffía » Sun Jul 03, 2016 6:58 am

reineke wrote:
Soffía wrote:
reineke wrote:I'm certain I started extensive reading of native novels before I 'should' have done, probably at more like a high B1. But then I don't think there are any graded readers available in Icelandic. The first romance novel that I struggled my way through was fairly hard going, but after a year and a half, and around 3000 pages, I can now read... not all contemporary literary prose, but a good deal of it.


Children's bilingual books:
Er ég smá? Am I small?
Sofðu rótt, litli úlfur - Sleep Tight, Little Wolf
...
Eventually one could ramp it up to Ævintýri Lísu í Undralandi.


I did read a couple of children's books, now that I think of it. But they're not really (to me) all that absorbing.

As for Ævintýri Lísu í Undralandi, it happens to have been the last book that I finished. And it's hard! If I were giving advice to an Icelandic learner I would be more inclined to recommend something like Englar alheimsins, which is both easier and a winner of the Nordic Council's Literature Prize.
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Re: Selecting extensive reading materials

Postby Soffía » Sun Jul 03, 2016 8:07 am

Just wanted to add an interesting fact I came across about graded readers: that there may be restrictions on content, not in terms of comprehension, but in terms of political sensitivity.

This article talks about publishers of graded readers, and the choices they make: http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/rfl/April2012/a ... aridge.pdf

However, the other two publishers had a rather different attitude to story lines and controversial topics. Macmillan Guided Readers said that they have a clear policy on the type of story that they consider suitable... With regard to content, they must not include sensitive topics such as strong religion or homosexuality. Topics must engage the reader, of course, but political correctness is never far from the mind of the commissioning editor. Penguin Readers made the same point about content.


To each their own – the beauty of extensive reading is that each reader can pick what suits them best – but this is definitely not an approach that I would find engaging, or want to support financially for that matter.
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Re: Selecting extensive reading materials

Postby reineke » Sun Jul 03, 2016 4:11 pm

Soffía wrote:
reineke wrote:
Soffía wrote:
reineke wrote:I'm certain I started extensive reading of native novels before I 'should' have done, probably at more like a high B1. But then I don't think there are any graded readers available in Icelandic. The first romance novel that I struggled my way through was fairly hard going, but after a year and a half, and around 3000 pages, I can now read... not all contemporary literary prose, but a good deal of it.


Children's bilingual books:
Er ég smá? Am I small?
Sofðu rótt, litli úlfur - Sleep Tight, Little Wolf
...
Eventually one could ramp it up to Ævintýri Lísu í Undralandi.


I did read a couple of children's books, now that I think of it. But they're not really (to me) all that absorbing.

As for Ævintýri Lísu í Undralandi, it happens to have been the last book that I finished. And it's hard! If I were giving advice to an Icelandic learner I would be more inclined to recommend something like Englar alheimsins, which is both easier and a winner of the Nordic Council's Literature Prize.


Yeah, but Alice in Wonderland is a very fun book and it's also very short. I mentioned ramping things up with other books like for instance Litli prinsinn / The Little Prince. Of course, you don't need to do that as you've made that transition. I am learning new words just by looking at these titles.
Last edited by reineke on Sun Jul 03, 2016 5:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Selecting extensive reading materials

Postby Soffía » Sun Jul 03, 2016 4:19 pm

reineke wrote:Yeah, but Alice in Wonderland is a very fun book and it's also very short. I mentioned ramping things up with other books like for instance Litli prinsinn / The Little Prince. Of course, you don't need to do that. I am learning new words just by looking at these titles.


Both Alice in Wonderland and The Little Prince, though short and classic, are also very unexpected books. You can't predict what's going to happen next and they introduce a lot of vocabulary that low intermediate learners (or high intermediate, for that matter) won't know. They may work very well for interlinear reading, or if the reader is very familiar with them already, but for myself I found them surprisingly unrewarding. Their eccentricity is part of their charm for someone who knows the language well, of course.

(Also, by "you," I assume that you mean "language learners in general" rather than me personally, as I made the transition some time ago...)
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Re: Selecting extensive reading materials

Postby patrickwilken » Sun Jul 03, 2016 7:42 pm

I have been using extensive reading/listening quite effectively to learn German over the last four years.

Librarians have something called the five-finger rule: Look at a page of a book you want to read and count on your fingers the number of unknown words you know, if you have more than five-fingers crossed the book is too hard, which equates to about 98% comprehension. Personally I find 95%-98% or thereabouts about right for Extensive Reading (i.e., reading for pleasure without a dictionary), and I find 99% even better - though often I have trouble finding books that are that easy to read.

I disagree with the idea that 99% is too easy. 99% equates to about 3-4 unknown words per page; many of these will not be repeated in a book (that's the problem when you get into the long-tail of the word frequency distribution). For the sake of argument, let's say there is 1 unknown word per page that only occurs once in a book. As I can comfortably read a 250 novel in about 2-3 days, that means there are at least 80 unique new words per day to learn (if all 3-4 were not repeated that would be more like 200-300 new words/day). If you include the words that are repeated, that's plenty of new words to learn. There is no need to drop below 99% comprehension for learning purposes.

I would also like to put a plug in for newspapers. There is a lot of free text out there, but electronic subscriptions to most newspapers now are very cheap. My monthly subscription to Süddeutsche Zeitung (somewhat equivalent to the Guardian/LA Times in English) is 20 Euros/month, and gives me a new newspaper six times a week, with coverage of everything from politics, to economics, science, culture, movie reviews etc. It's not the same as reading a novel, but it really helps with a certain type of vocabulary that is hard to get from books (unless you read very widely). I am finding it fascinating reading the very different takes on the Brexit from the German and English newspapers at the moment, and sort of wish I could read the equivalent stories in French, Spanish etc.

Also, although it's a bit off topic, extensive listening is really helpful, and compliments any reading you do. I switched over all my TV/movie watching to German some years ago (Netflix makes this super easy) and there I found you could enjoy films with much lower understanding (perhaps 50%), perhaps because the images make things much easier to follow - and perhaps because you are just forced to go with the story. Something I find impossible to do when I reading and there are lots of unknown words.
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