Focus on Reading
Esther Geva and Gloria Ramirez
Oxford University Press 2015

focus on reading book cover


As with the other titles in the Oxford Key Concepts series, Focus on Reading shows EL2 teachers of children and adolescents how research on language learning and teaching can inform what they do in their own context. Consideration is given to learners with reading disabilities, those whose schooling has been interrupted, and those without literacy skills in their own language.

The first chapter explores the multifaceted nature of reading comprehension and invites us to reflect on our current beliefs about L1 and L2 reading comprehension. It provides an overview of the skills involved in L2 reading comprehension and the factors that can influence it, such as the learners’ experience of reading in their own language and the type of text they are reading.

Chapter 2 provides an overview of key theoretical frameworks – linguistic, psycholinguistic, cognitive and developmental – that inform research on reading development. The overall message is that one size does not fit all. On the contrary, reading comprehension is largely affected by such variables as learners’ linguistic and cognitive skills, orthographic characteristics of learners’ L1, learners’ experience in L1 reading, and various developmental factors. As teachers, we need to take all these into account.

In Chapter 3, the focus is on the teaching of reading in the primary and upper-elementary grades. Specifically, the relationship between word reading, language comprehension and reading comprehension; the reading skills that need to be taught and the amount of time devoted to each; effective reading assessment tools; and the discussion of how technology can support the normal development of reading skills and assist those with reading disabilities. The chapter also highlights the transition from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn’ and outlines what this means in terms of teaching.

Focusing on reading development beyond Grade 6, Chapter 4 moves from a discussion of the basic reading skills, such as decoding and word reading, to the higher-order reading skills, such as the reading of academic texts, understanding of cohesion markers, and developing cognitive, metacognitive, and metalinguistic awareness. The authors also address the issue of using authentic reading material versus modified texts.

The concluding chapter, summarises key points related to theory, research and teaching practices discussed in earlier chapters. The authors return to the reflection activity included in the opening chapter and provide responses to each of the statements in this activity, supporting it with research findings discussed throughout the book.

In each chapter there are Spotlight Studies, Classroom Snapshots and Activities to help us reflect on the ideas and concepts examined throughout the book and to apply them to our own teaching situations.

I found the Spotlight Studies sections particularly useful in familiarising me with current research. Classroom Snapshots show how principles and concepts examined throughout the book can be applied to diverse EL2 teaching contexts and could be very useful for educators on professional training and development courses. Activities provide further opportunities to deepen understanding of the concepts reviewed. I particularly liked the diversity of these activities. They include reflection tasks, tasks which link the ‘key concepts’ to a teacher’s own teaching situations, and research studies.

The coherent and easy-to-follow organisation of this book, the reference to up-to-date research material, and the inclusion of a variety of activities make it an invaluable resource.

Elena Shvidko is an Assistant Professor in ESL at Utah State University.