Wednesday, April 23, 2008

English as a Foreign Language: Reading is FUN-Damental

English as a Foreign Language Teachers and Learners:
Did you know that today, Wednesday, April 23, 2008 is a national day for books and reading? Some places also call it “Language Day” or give tribute to England’s William Shakespeare and Spain’s Miguel Cervantes. Both writers, while born in different years, reputedly died on this same day in the year 1616.

In conjunction with a day for honoring, or at least remembering, two of literature’s most auspicious contributors, I thought I’d take the opportunity to divulge some recent statistics on reading published in Colombia. Some of them I found to be quite appalling. What is it like in the country where YOU live and teach?

Reading In Colombia
In a study done in 2005, Colombians read an average of only 1.5 (one point five) books per year! When polled as to why so few, technology and the internet were primarily cited as reasons most never cracked open a book. Television also bore a brunt of the blame for non-readers.

Back in the year 2000 however, the average number of books read was “up” to 2.4 (two point four) books per year in Colombia. This is still far below anything I read about before. Incredulous, I polled hundreds of my EFL learners and fellow ELT teachers.

“How many books did you have to read during your college or university years? I asked.

For me in the USA, most college majors required somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 or more books to be read and / or referenced during a four-year sojourn. Many Colombian colleagues and students cited approximately 20 – that’s right, twenty, books to be read during a five-year undergraduate program!

A Five-Year Periodic Study
Here are some more interesting statistics from the “Study of Reading Habits, Library Attendance Book Consumption in Colombia” (2005) which is conducted every five years. The next scheduled study is set for the year 2010.

22% of Colombians say they have NO books in their home in contrast with

4.1% of Mexicans who say they have NO books in their home

7.7% of Colombians said they have more than 100 books at home in contrast with

24.6% of Mexicans who said that they have more than 100 books at home

41% of Colombians older than 12 prefer reading books

26% prefer reading magazines and

32% prefer to read newspapers and other periodicals

79.7% of children and youths said that they read despite of the accessibility of technology and television

Colombian Cities Hosting Special Celebrations
There are 27 Colombian cities and municipalities reportedly hosting celebrations and special events today or during this week. These include the following as reported in “El Tiempo” newspaper, April 20, 2008.

The cities are: Armenia, Rio Hacha, Barranquilla, Buenaventura, Bogota, Bucaramanga, Ipiales, Leticia, Cali, San Andres,Cartagena, Santa Marta, Cucuta, Sincelejo, Ibagué, Valledupar, Manizales, Florencia, Medellín, Girardot, Neiva, Monteria, Pereira, Villavicencio, Popayán, Tunja and Pasto.

If your area has any recognition of this day why not encourage your EFL learners to participate. If not, then why not prepare some activities for your English language learners?
English language teachers and Parents: If YOU don’t read, then your learners and children won’t see the value in developing this habit and skill. You need to set the example as well as helping them to develop reading for pleasure and reading comprehension skills .

And me? I read ten non-academic books over the end-of-the-year holiday break last December to January. But then, I like to read.

By the way, how many books do YOU read each year?

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 80 countries. Get your FREE E-books,"If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

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