Following on from Autolire, the French key stage 4Year 12 text resource CD-Rom, Collins has added both a Germanparallel disc, CD-Lesen and a Spanish one, CD-Lectura. All three work to the same format, and contain an enormous number of texts drawn from authentic sources, an integrated dictionary and a facility to hear some of the short texts read by native speakers.
There is also a search function for key words, which are highlighted in the texts. The material is arranged in topics such as everyday life, youth culture and the environment, with sub-topics consisting of a good range of texts on three levels of difficulty. There is a small group of introductory texts in each section, which have accompanying tasks (pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading). This is very useful as it addresses the vital need for strategy training in any foreign language reading programme. The authors of all three CD-Roms evidently hope that by following the tasks for the introductory texts, students will learn to read in a similar way when tackling the later texts. (These more difficult texts do have an introductory section with some keywords and a visual).
The availability of print and save to disc functions is another plus - teachers could use the material with text manipulation software to create tasks such as cloze and text reconstruction.
The material is drawn from current sources such as youth magazines and newspapers, providing authentic language and themes from the 1990s. This naturally will become rather dated, and the hope is that Collins would find ways of issuing occasional update CD-Roms at discount prices. Further tasks and more sound would be also be desirable in upgrades.
My one criticism about the format is that the texts have been typed in, rather than scanned in their original style, font, layout etc. The number of texts would have been restricted had that been done, but perhaps some mixture of original layout and straight text could be considered for future editions. On-screen reading is not as easy as reading from a page and therefore the presentation of a text on print-out is relevant when we consider student motivation. Price is a slightly worrying aspect too; teachers will want to be sure they will use the resource to the full.
Nevertheless, many German and Spanish teachers will feel they are restricted in the reading material available and this will undoubtedly be a major resource for good GCSE and early post-16 use.
Philip Hood is Lecturer in Education, School of Education, University of Nottingham University Park