English Reading Room

English Reading Room

Karen Haworth – China

Would you be able to read a novel in a second language?  How about in Chinese?

Students at the Sichuan Radio and TV University in Chengdu are doing just this—in English. In their free time, students can now use English books in a new reading room.  Reading in English improves their language ability, as well as giving them new ideas to discuss and new ways to view the world.

The school had some English books donated by American friends in their library.  However, when I came to teach here, these books were sitting unused in a cabinet. I hoped students could use these books, but didn’t know how to make it possible.

{mosimage} For solutions, I relied on my experience working in a library in college and on knowledge of reading rooms started by Amity Foundation teachers. So this spring, I set regular hours to be available to students in the library and made a system for students to check out the English books.  School staff responded to my ideas for this room because I addressed their concerns.   

At English Corner, we discussed ideas for turning the library into an “English Salon”—a place for students to gather and use English with each other.  English Corner has met in the reading room ever since.  When students commented that they had no place to watch English movies, the school put a TV and DVD player in the room.

{mosimage} To encourage students to read more, I have started a reading competition.  When students finish reading six books, they may have dinner with me.  I have also divided the books into eight reading levels, so students can select books more easily.  Students from a volunteer group started in the fall of 2004 have helped prepare the books to check out.  

The students’ enthusiasm for reading has surpassed my expectations. Many are reading 5th and 6th grade level books, and even young adult novels.  Students gather at the reading room when I am there and start using English with each other.  They talk about what they are reading, recommend books, and ask each other questions.  Some come back week after week for new books.  Their excitement about a certain book often leads me to read it, too.

When students come to check out books, I give suggestions, helping them find a book fits their interests and reading levels. When they return books, students often ask me questions about words and ideas in the story.  Then I also ask them questions about the story and what they think of it.  I enjoy sharing my love of reading with them.

By conversing with students about their reading, I gain insights into their lives—their English level, their language learning process, and their interests.

My future goals for this room include adding more books, making displays, forming a book discussion group, and holding English movie and cultural events.

Karen Haworth – China