A LETTER TO THE TEACHERS OF ENGLISH: 21Reading aloud and reading silently in the class [Archives:2003/658/Education]

August 11 2003

Dr. M.N.K.Bose ([email protected])
Associate Professor of English,
Faculty of Arts, Ibb.

Dear Fellow teachers,
I wrote in my last letter about silent reading and why we should pay attention to the development of it from the early classes. You will agree that silent reading is more important than reading aloud because it is the matured way of reading and helps us throughout our lives. It does not mean that reading aloud or oral reading is not important; it has its place in the classroom. Most of the reading in the beginning classes is oral reading, but silent reading should not be neglected because it is difficult to practice. When you start teaching reading, read aloud the words, phrases and sentences clearly, as many times as your learners need. Reading aloud helps us to fix the spoken form of English in the learners' minds; therefore, your reading should be as acceptable as possible. Remember, I'm not asking you to pronounce the words and sentences like a native speaker of English; if you can develop this skill through practice, it is well and good, but if you can't, try to be good and acceptable. I've seen some teachers putting on an artificial pronunciation and being incomprehensible; they are most of the time laughing stocks!
Oral reading trains the learners in pronunciation, so you should give them enough opportunities to read aloud in the classroom and correct their pronunciation mistakes then and there. They can read off the books or blackboard; you can also bring some aids like a poster, an advertisement, a notice, and a handbill and ask the learners to read it aloud. It will be more useful if you ask them to read it silently for a few seconds and ask them what it is about before they read it aloud. In higher classes, the learners may be asked to read a paragraph here and another paragraph there from the lesson. I am not personally in favour of the learners reading aloud the whole lesson, because at that stage, it does not have any benefit except keeping them awake. Some of us use reading aloud to keep the learners 'engaged', but this does not engage their minds at all. So, in higher classes, reading aloud should be used sparingly for a definite purpose such as checking the pronunciation or to bring back the attention of a student who is 'lost' etc.
Silent reading trains them in understanding what they read. In addition to the lessons in the textbooks, reading materials such as newspaper cuttings with interesting news, advertisements, comics and stories from other books (may be translated by you from Arabic) can be used for reading silently in the higher classes. Don't forget, silent reading is complete only with checking the understanding of the learners with a few questions or activities, some of which have been mentioned in my last letter. I am aware that making the learners read silently is rather an uphill task (even in college classes), but once they have developed the skill of reading silently, they are going to benefit from it all their lives, in their higher studies or in their jobs. I have also suggested the use of Arabic texts for silent reading now and then in English classes; I'm serious. The Arabic texts you choose should be a bit more difficult for the learners and these texts should be used occasionally. Let me repeat, the success of silent reading, whether the passage is in English or Arabic, depends on how good and challenging your questions are. I will write more about asking questions in later letters. Try to develop the habit of reading in your learners and give them a useful prop for them for the future. Good luck.
Yours fraternally
Dr. M.N.K.Bose