At Read Listen Learn we believe that reading circles can help to encourage EFL and ESOL students to read and to get more from the experience and we're developing resources to work alongside our graded readers with this mind. Here's some background about how Reading Circles developed and how they work.
Reading Circles were first used by an American teacher and researcher in Chicago in the 1980s, called Harvey Daniels. He was not working with EFL students who knew English as their second language (L2) but with native users for whom English was their mother tongue (L1).
Daniels decided to respond to students' dislike of reading at secondary school. He had noted that teenagers often described 'reading lessons' as their least favourite and most difficult classes for improving their language. Daniels, as a good educator, of course, wanted students to get the same pleasure and benefit out of reading as he did. He reckoned the best way of going about this was to develop 'literature circles'. After all, for centuries people had been getting together to talk about what they were reading, whether this was in academic societies or neighbourhood book clubs.
Suddenly, meeting with friends to talk honestly about books - to be able to say that this or that author was dull or patronising, while another was invigorating, regardless of their reputations - was refreshing. It was a very different experience from having to hold the same 'right' opinion as the teacher in the classroom.
Daniels gave some guiding principles for these reading groups, slightly adapted here to bear in mind the different scenario for L2 learners...
For more information, see Daniels, H. (2002): 'Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading Groups' (Portland, ME: Stenhouse).
For an EFL perspective, you can read more at...
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