Teaching of reading skills and its impact on students

Reading is one of the basic communication skills. It holds immense importance in English language teaching. It is pre-requisite to speaking and writing because it enables an individual to gain information from the written language. reading Similarly, reading comprehension is an important component of reading skill. Comprehension helps students understand the written language which otherwise may not be possible. Hence, to enable students to keep pace with the modern world of competition within and outside the context, it is the responsibility of teachers to equip them with reading comprehension strategies. However, reading comprehension in English has been a challenging and frustrating experience for students particularly in the context of Gilgit Baltistan. As an English language teacher I have experienced this at different levels in my career. I have seen students confronting difficulties in understanding various written texts in the subject of English. I often wondered why my students had been facing difficulty in understanding English texts but I had never reflected on the dilemma. Any way my specialization in TESOL at a private university where I am currently doing my M.Ed opened the horizons of my mind to reflect on the situation of teaching reading in my context. TESOL, which stands for Teaching of English to the Speakers of Other Languages, is a specialized course for English teachers in M.Ed programme at this university. Being a part of this course I made a small effort to conduct an exploratory study in the context of Gilgit Baltistan to identify the reasons underlying the low proficiency of students in reading skill. Although I had a general idea of reading challenges of students, this study supplemented my experiences. The reconnaissance conducted for this particular study showed obvious indications that students in the context of this particular study were confronted with difficulty in terms of reading comprehension. There could be many other reasons behind students’ less proficiency in reading. However, one reason emerged to be prominent. English teacher and students were not familiar with reading strategies. The reason behind this unfamiliarity is that students are not taught the basic reading strategies in English. There is a trend to translate each sentence in a paragraph into Urdu. The ability to translate a given passage into Urdu is usually considered as a good reading skill among teachers in our context. As a result of this traditional teaching, students are not familiar with reading techniques. They are habitual to searching for the meanings of every word in a reading passage. They are unable to construct meaning of key words from the context of the given passage. This is because students face difficulty in understanding English reading passages they usually confront in admission tests for premier institutions for further studies. Based on these evidences, my experiences as an English teacher and a student of TESOL and given the importance of reading skill in English language teaching, I suggest the following humble recommendations: English teachers should be proficient and efficient in English language. English teachers should not be selected randomly. Teachers who have specialised in teaching of English should be given preference for teaching English. Teachers of English should have a deep understanding of reading skill, its theoretical underpinnings and approaches of how to teach it to others. Reading strategies should be taught to the students explicitly. Although strategies should be taught one at a time, teachers should integrate the taught ones with those being taught. Students should be provided with more and more support and opportunities to practice reading in class until they become independent and are able to self-monitor their progress in comprehension. Teaching of reading should go beyond textbooks. Material which attracts students’ interest should be provided for reading. Teachers should make sure that their students can decode a passage fluently and with correct pronunciations before they teach them how to comprehend it. Teachers should develop an attitude of inquiry and research so that they may identify the needs of students and address them accordingly. Finally I would sum up by saying that since reading is one of the core skills of language, it indeed plays an important role in better understanding of the target language. Reading is pre-requisite to speaking and writing. The former helps receive the information while the latter helps one express what is in mind. Expression is possible only after having received the information which is only possible through reading. Learners are exposed to various texts through reading. Therefore, reading needs to be improved to enable learners understand language efficiently. (June 4, 2013). Syed Afiat Shah, a resident of Ghizer, Gilgit-Baltistan, is a student of MEd at the Aga Khan University-Institute for Educational Development, Karachi.]]>

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