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Willing to read widely

Developing Advanced Reading Skills in Modern Foreign Languages By Bob Powell and Ann Barnes, MGP Concepts series Pounds 7.50

Developing Advanced Reading Skills in Modern Foreign Languages is the eighth book in the Concepts series. The focus in recent years has been on communicative skills, yet as Ann Barnes and Bob Powell point out, the ability to read and identify key points in a foreign language text is a skill highly valued in a range of careers.

The authors understand and tackle the problems faced by every teacher of A-level languages trying to encourage their students to read widely in the target language. The book is clear and practical and, although I have been teaching A-level for longer than I care to remember, it is a welcome and much-needed guide.

The authors pinpoint the false assumptions that are made about A-level students: that they must be reasonably competent since they've got this far, and that they are competent and fairly extensive readers in their own language who already possess a range of reading strategies.

Each chapter focuses on a particular aspect of reading, with a summary and action plan at the end. The authors investigate strategies to train students, from looking at words to experiencing different kinds of text. There are many useful and practical ideas for working with texts with the ultimate aim of encouraging students actually to want to read.

The role of literature is still an issue in many language departments and the authors argue (quite rightly in my view) that literary works have a place in allowing students to experience different kinds of text.

Bob Powell and Ann Barnes suggest imaginative solutions for analysis and interpretation. The appendices contain useful checklists of text types and reading tasks, as well as a worked example. Make sure this is on your shelf!

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