The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. James Bryce


As a teacher of English as a foreign language I truly believe that one of the greatest ways to make my students cherish the language and grasp its scope to the deepest is by prodding them to read, read and read.  Yet, I am not much in favour of graded readers, not so much because of their quality.  There are graded readers that are undoubtedly well edited and of great help to some students.  I started experimenting reading books for young people 10 years ago and since then I have never abandoned the idea of promoting authentic material in my classes.  I see that when my students read an authentic (unabridged) novel, they gain confidence and great satisfaction.  They say their reading a novel in English (a novel that mother tongue speakers themselves read!) gives them a great sense of achievement, fulfilment.  Obviously I do not plunge my students into an ocean of books without giving them any buoy (metaphorically speaking).  Quite the contrary: titles are suggested according to the level of English my students have and bearing in mind the overall interests.
I am much indebted to Stephen Krashen’s ideas and books.  If I had not read him I doubt I would have ever decided to abondon the safe island of the graded reader to embark on a riskier but greatly challenging vessel.

Why have I not set up a blog on reading in English before?  I started  promoting extensive reading years ago and I have been using blogs with my students for a while.  Well, the truth is that running a blog is timeconsuming and we teachers do not happen to have lots of time.  Yet, this school  year (2011) was marked by a special event for my 3F class.  Thus this blog is dedicated to them.  They are the ones that spurred me into creating it.  They read the novel “Beautiful Malice” by the Australian writer Rebecca James and then they accepted my challenge of attending a short workshop on how to create a booktrailer.  With the help of Andrea Princivalli they created the following:

The writer herself wrote the following e-mail to the students:

Dear Class III F
That is absolutely brilliant. I love it! It is Sunday morning here in Australia and I’ve just watched that trailer and I’m sure I’m going to be smiling all day!
Thank you so so so MUCH.
I think you’re all amazingly clever and I’m going to post that on my blog if you don’t mind?
With very warm wishes,

You will read the students’ reactions and comments on the book and on the booktrailer experience.
Since this blog is meant to promote ESL students to read novels in English but also colleagues to use free reading in their classes, I would love to share with you the introductory activity I devised along with two friends and colleagues (Nella and Laura), with whom I share ideas, projects, hopes and sometimes frustrations too.  This activity is meant to tickle the students imagination and if possible to spur them into reading the whole novel.
Beautiful Malice

A good book on your shelf is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.  Author Unknown

beautifulmaliceThis is another interesting booktrailer what I invite you to watch.
Bye for now.


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30 risposte a The worth of a book is to be measured by what you can carry away from it. James Bryce

  1. anonimo scrive:

    1-Absolutely yes! I really enjoyed reading the novel. At the beginning it was a little bit difficult because I had to concentrate a lot in order to understand what it was written but then it was just like reading an Italian novel, of course I didn’t understand every single word, but it was much easier than before and I began to appreciate the story. Reading this novel has helped me to learn lots of new words and English idioms, it made me aware of my English knowledge and on the same time I understood what I have to improve and that I have still lots of things to learn. Finally, even if it is a bit stupid, after reading the novel I felt proud of myself because I managed to understand quite everything and I was really pleased of it.
    2-In my opinion it didn’t create a stronger bond among us, even if I have to say that we spoke a lot of it in class. When we came back from the Christmas holidays, we were so excited about the novel: everybody expressed her point of view and we compared our opinions. It was nice to speak all together and finding something common among us.
    Personally, I spoke about the novel even with friends outside the class, I think because it was such a wonderful and involving novel that I felt like doing that. I was so seized with the story that I had to talk about it and I wanted to make everybody part of it.
    3-TEN! It was absolutely pleasant and interesting. It helped me a lot with my English and then it was such a gripping story that I couldn’t stop reading it until the end of the novel.
    4-Not really. I enjoyed it of course, but it didn’t change in some way my reading of the novel.
    It was a wonderful experience, but I didn’t think it was really linked to the reading of “Beautiful Malice” in English. In fact, we didn’t speak in English during those lessons and we talked more about shooting a trailer than the book. So, while we were joining those classes I didn’t really think about the story of the novel and it didn’t help me to improve my English.
    5-It was enjoyable because we learnt lots of new things and we worked all together: it was nice doing something with all the class. Personally, I found it really interesting and it taught me many things. I found out that I really like the cinema and that it is a subject that interests me a lot. The worst aspects of this activity what the fact that it took up a lot of time and so during those days I was very busy. Then I was panicked because I had to compose a melody for the trailer, but I didn’t have so much time and I didn’t know how I would have done it. However, I managed to compose something proper and despite this it was a nice experience.
    6-There aren’t any negative aspects of reading the novel in English: it was just amazing! As I have already said, it made me improve my English and I learnt a lot of new words. Besides the story was extremely involving, too. It made me think about important arguments such as friendship, murder, rape and so on. So, it was not only interesting, but also educational.
    7-I don’t know if I learnt something about me. Maybe I did, but I’m not aware of it.
    Perhaps, as I said before, I found myself interested in cinema and shooting trailers or films and then reading the novel made me feel like reading other books in English on my own, not just when the teacher says that we have to read one. So, maybe it has motivated me in improving my English and in reading books.
    8-Well, I think all of us should try to read English books on his/her own because it is a pleasant way of learning English and I would be grateful if the teacher kept on promoting the reading of materials in English because I really enjoyed it and it was very useful.
    9-If I were a teacher, I would promote the reading of English books even just for pleasure.
    I wouldn’t force my students to look every single word in the dictionary because I think that it makes the reading boring and for me the important thing is to understand the context and then maybe, when you have finished the novel, you can improve your English looking in the dictionary the words that you didn’t understand.
    10-I think that a student is more motivated when he/she deals with arguments or topics that regards him/her as a person. For example, in my opinion we were so excited and interested
    in this novel because it speaks about friendship, love and it was so psychologically gripping. Besides, the main characters were teenagers so we were more involved.
    Then I think that patience and calm motivates a student more than too much strictness. I don’t mean that teachers shouldn’t be strict, but I think that there are different ways of being strict.
    In conclusion, teachers shouldn’t underestimate their students, but should help
    them in learning. And we should try, as students, to be more motivated and to study a bit more, not only when the teachers says to, but also on our own. 

    Sara Perin

  2. anonimo scrive:

    1)      In my opinion reading English books has been important to improve the language because I learnt lots of typical expressions and new vocabulary. Moreover, when you read you get confidance with the language.
    2)      I don’t think reading the same book has created a stronger bond among us even if discussing it together (even outside school) has been a great deal to confront our opinions.
    I told my mother about “Face” and “Teacher’s dead” because I wanted to know her opinion on the main character’s thoughts. I must say a long discussion was raised.
    3)      Eight. The story is gripping, there is a lot of suspance and I like reading.
    4)      Shooting the book trailer makes me aware of how many aspects and feelings are there in the novel. What I am trying to say is that while we are reading we concentrate on the story and we are not consciuous of what we feel. Due to the shooting we had have to find and analyze things, emotions I have never been consciuous of.
    5)      I loved shooting the trailer for three reasons: the first is the one I’ve just said above; then I liked very much the team spirit that it has created; in conclusion I found out new shooting technique or ways to work which really interested me. I loved this project!
    6)      Readingin English is important to know new words and to improve the language. I do not think there are negative aspects, reading never hurts anybody.
    8)   I think you should continue to promote English reading because it is useful for school and
          even for us as people.
    9)   If I were a teacher I would show my student some English films or inform them on a topic      
          that interests them and then discuss about it and do some work on it. I found the workshop
          on Global Warming very motivating.
    10) I think studying only grammar kills the motivation to learn.

    Adua Dalla Costa

  3. anonimo scrive:

    1)I think that reading novels in English in their original format is a really good way both to increase motivation and to improve your English. Fist of all I learnt new words and even typical expressions, which may be useful in everyday life. Moreover, I think that “reading for pleasure” makes you more involved in the task and makes you forget that it is just homework to do, increasing consequently your motivation. In fact, personally, I really enjoyed reading the book that were asked me to read, because I felt like I wanted to do it and nobody obliged me.
    2)I haven’t spoken about the books with people outside school, maybe because nobody read them and I think it’s better and easier talking about them with somebody who knows what you are talking about. Although I didn’t speak about the books with people who didn’t read them, I often spoke about them with classmates, even without the presence of the teacher. For example last summer I often talked and shared my opinion with some classmates about “Face” and “Teacher’s dead”, and I believe that this has somehow created a stronger bond among us.
    3)I enjoyed reading “Beautiful Malice” in English 8. In my opinion it was a really good book and reading it in English maybe is even better than in Italian. Perhaps the negative part is that English is not my mother-tongue and so I can’t understand every single word, but I think that little by little you get accustomed to it and you don’t even realize you are reading in a different language from yours.
    4)I don’t really think that shooting the book trailer has changed my reading of the novel, but in my opinion it has been really interesting seeing with some images the book we read. Everybody, while reading, imagines some scenes in his mind, and so sharing with other people your feelings about it and getting to know other points of view has been really great.
    5)In my opinion the best aspects of shooting the trailer were first of all that we got to know different interpretations of the book and it’s quite interesting to understand that the same book doesn’t have necessarily the same meaning for each of us. So seeing the result of different opinions put together is really enjoyable. In addition spending some time all together has been really funny and created a stronger bond among us. Honestly I can’t find any negative aspects.
    6)One of the positive aspects of reading the novel in English is that you have the possibility to improve a lot your vocabulary, learning new words and new expressions. Of course you can’t understand everything, and this may be the negative aspect, but while you go on reading you get accustomed to it and you almost forget you aren’t reading in your mother-tongue. Moreover, I think that reading the book in its original language is better than reading a translation of it, which may change the real meaning of some expressions and so the real meaning of what the author wanted to say.
    7)From the novel I got the message that if some people have a specific behaviour, that maybe at the beginning we don’t understand, lots of times it is because of their past, because of what they have been through. So we should all learn not to judge immediately, but try to understand the reason why someone does those things, because appearance can often deceive. As a student I learnt new words and I had the possibility to improve my English. From shooting the trailer I understood that, even if it is the same book, we all have different opinions and interpretations. For example not everyone enjoyed the book and getting to know other points of view, different from mine, has been really nice.
    8)In my opinion promoting the reading of authentic materials in English is a really good way to motivate students. I think that in this way the student can improve his/her English, learning new vocabulary, while doing something he/she likes, just reading a beautiful novel.
    9)I think motivating students to learn more is really difficult. If I were a teacher of English I would try to make the lesson as interesting as possible, maybe trying to involve in some way my students. I think nowadays lots of students aren’t really motivated, because they don’t find interest in what they do, but they do something just because the teacher has asked them to. So I would try to make them understand that studying has to be a pleasure and I think giving them novels to read is a really good way to do it.
    10)As a student I think that some things, such as some grammatical exercises, “kill” the desire of learning, probably because you do them mechanically and you aren’t really involved. Of course they are an essential part to learn English; anyway I think that other things, like for example reading poems or novels, are better to motivate learning. Another thing that in my opinion kills the desire to learn is giving too much homework. I think that in this way the student will feel too much pressure and he/she will end making all the work superficially, because he/she doesn’t have the time to concentrate on everything. So I believe it’s better giving less work to do, so that the student can concentrate and obtain a better result.

    Valentina Lupieri

  4. I think the promotion of reading for pleasure or free reading has helped me with my English because it had dragged me into the real English, not only the one which is taught at school. Another thing that I'd like to say is that some years ago I had teachers that made us not only read books but also look up every single word we didn't know in the dictionary. I think this way kills the pleasure of reading because it doesn't permit you to be completely involved.

  5. I don't think that reading the same book has created a stronger bond among classmates but I have to say that we have talked about it. It has raised up loads of considerations that we have shared. I haven't spoken about it outside school because from my point of view in this case it's possible onlt after everyone has read it.

  6. I enjoyed reading the novel “Beautiful Malice” from 1-10, 10, because in this way obviously the emotions and the feelings the writer wanted to communicate are clearer. In addiction, although the language was easy, I felt very pleased because I understood everything without the need of looking up words in the dictionary.

  7. Shooting the booktrailer neither chenged my reading of the novel nor enhanced my desire to read in English but I'd like to say that was a great experience, althought at the beginning I wasn't very convinced, because of the highly-stressed period.

  8. The best aspect of shooting the trailer, from my point of view, was the process of identifying the feeeling we felt and then find images and music in order to communicate them to the viewers. I can't find any kind of negative aspect, maybe the fact that not everybody did the same contribution becaus of the bounds we had, but it doesn't really matter!

  9. Reading the novel in English, from my point of view, has only positive aspects. As I've already said, you can feel better what the writer wanted to communicate, you can learn expressions commonly used, you can prove and also improve your English.

  10. I think I didn't learn anything about myself but I've tried to identify with the characters and it was a bit difficult with Alice.

  11. Yes, I think the teacher should promote reading of authentic materials in English because people who are really interested would immediately think about it.

  12. I'd like to say that last year I really appreciated when we read “The boy in the stryped pijamas” and after watching the movie we compared them because it wasn't the same old work, or better still, it was an alternative way of working! If I were a teacher I would prepare classes about topics that are closed to y students.

  13. Keep on talking about reading, students became reluctant when teachers promote it to them, because of the fear of having to work hard on the boring “scheda libro”. A solution could simply be a class discussion about the issues raised up in the book.

    Silvia Salvador