UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The effect of an extensive reading program on the reading proficiency and vocabulary knowledge of adult ESL readers Lennig, Evelyn M.


Provincial and federal government surveys and commissions have consistently reported that English literacy training for adults with no or limited English is urgently needed and that access to training is limited. The effectiveness of existing literacy training programs and instructional strategies at the adult level has not been well researched. However, at the classroom level literacy training can be easily compromised by instructional strategies that limit the concept of full-literacy by focusing ESL literacy instruction on survival, functional and skill-building reading experiences. English and second language reading research suggests that student self-selection of reading materials and a high exposure to text are effective means of increasing vocabulary knowledge and reading proficiency. This study examined the effect of an Extensive Reading program on reading proficiency and vocabulary knowledge for 2 classes (N=33) of adult low intermediate ESL learners enrolled in a 15 week English language training program at a large Canadian community college. This quasi-experimental treatment group participated in a reading program supplemental to their regular classroom reading instruction. Subjects met weekly with the researcher and self-selected reading material from a collection of graded readers. Data on the frequency of the students' reading, their preferences in reading topics and materials and self-evaluations of their first and second language reading abilities were tallied for subjects in both groups. No statistical significant differences were found for the treatment in the analysis of assessments of reading and vocabulary. However, the experimental group posted higher gains in the group mean score on reading proficiency than the control group. Analysis of the Reading Behavior Survey suggests subjects in both groups were low frequency readers (less than 5 hours of reading time in English per week) who generally evaluated themselves fair to good readers in L2 but good to excellent readers in LI. The inconclusive results for the effect of the treatment on reading proficiency and vocabulary acquisition implies the need for future studies on the effectiveness of extensive reading programs on literacy training in ESL programs where literacy in English is a concern for students and educators.

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