Shared reading with an additional language!

“Not forward, not backward, some sideward
It is said Learning is part of life, and it is truly ongoing all of my life. Since I am living here, learning English just like doing exercise to keep oneself fit. But no matter how much one makes the effort, the ageing clock still keeps ticking. Same as learning new tricks for an old dog, I have learned a lot of words, idioms, etc, but I can’t retain all of what I have learned. There might be a little hole somewhere on the brain tank!
I’m not expecting much English improvement at my age. I just hope my English level is not like a ball, rolling and dropping downhill toward the horizon too soon. However, yes, Reading Revolution does help in many regards, especially for helping me look into the variety of life (even though in stories) and opening my vision by understanding the people who are not in my narrow span of life experience.
I love reading. Joining the group doesn’t mean replacing any other activity, or altering daily life; I just squeeze it in – easily, no doubt as natural as breathing.” – Shared reading group member since 2018
Since 2018 our wonderful volunteers Jody, Dawn and Gaylene have been running a shared reading group at East Coast Bays library with a predominantly Chinese and Korean community of mixed ages and genders. (There are also Russian, Taiwanese and other cultures within the group.) English is an additional language for all the group members and we were curious to know if they felt like the group helped them with aspects of their English language. (In this group the story is emailed a week before the session so that participants can do any translation work ahead of time.) Some participants study English outside the group, some don’t but all have formally studied in the past. Some group members have been in NZ only a couple of years, some older people for 25 years!
When we asked for feedback the group universally agreed that they found shared reading really useful and motivating because the activity is so enjoyable! People were motivated to read the story beforehand and figure out any tricky bits so that they could really enjoy the rich discussion on the day. Most participants have already learned formal grammar so they don’t feel they need to do this in this session. All reported that their vocabulary and fluency had improved.
“I don’t want to stop for every word in the session- we can do that before! I want to enjoy the story! This is not an ESOL class!”
“Every story gives me motivation to learn English more because I want to enjoy the story without a dictionary- I’m not there yet!”
“It is very helpful in parts of vocabulary and grammar, especially vocabulary. I have really enjoyed these meetups.
The group felt they learned so much both from sharing ideas with their fellow group members and the diversity of the stories themselves. They felt like one on one shared reading might be better for beginners, but the group itself is a big drawcard for them! (Some prefer a smaller group as this group has grown quite large!)

“For me I misunderstand some things when I prepare but in the group I know more. I love hearing everyone’s thoughts!”
“It’s much better sharing ideas in the group, I understand more.”
“There are Korean and Taiwanese and Kiwis in the group so I learn how other people think, as well as improving my knowledge through the stories.”
One lady in our Albany Village library group run by the lovely Jane and Cameron said she really pushes herself to do things by herself including this! She said it’s a great opportunity to build her listening skills even though she finds reading the stories very difficult! “Maybe it’s easier for young students!”

People in both groups agree they are building confidence and motivation, enjoying the opportunity to speak English and also extending their knowledge about English speaking cultures.
“As a 2nd english speaker, I can get lots of information of English culture and literature. This is a good way to get used to living here as an immigrant.’
‘Sometimes the stories are about unfamiliar cultures and people. After reading them I begin to browse [Googling in English] for more information.”
“I will look up famous authors for more stories or information”
People who are not formally studying seem to be extending their reading outside the group by looking up authors or topics from the stories. People who are formally studying seem to be using this group for their reading practice and are mostly not doing extra reading. Interestingly they said that they really enjoy the variety and surprise of not knowing what the reader leader will pick each week because it gets them out of their comfort zone. They also enjoy the rich layered texture of the stories – lots to think about!
“Modern stories are easier but I love that sometimes it’s Victorian or Science Fiction- I would never choose these things!”
“Stories are so important because scientific articles are full of terms I don’t know so it’s too hard to enjoy!”
“It’s more important to read different kinds of stories, the Reader leader chooses things I would never choose because I would just follow my interests but it’s so important and I really enjoy the stories!”
“I love looking at the different stories within the story & analysing the plots. Weaving together different themes the story today had three kinds of lives interwoven, the people, the animals and the seasons.”
I love the stories the leaders choose- when I go to the library I don’t know what to choose!”
Finally, as in other shared reading groups, the regularity of the weekly routine is also beneficial to learning. No surprises there! It’s easier for us to learn together motivated by fun than learning alone!
“The routine of the story every week keeps me motivated and reading regularly”
” I would not read as much without the group. I don’t finish books by myself!”
“I study at home with a teacher practicing for exams but this is more efficient because we can understand deeper & enjoy more than by ourselves at home. Thinking about emotion and culture – it’s useful…’
“I have studied english through Kiwi institute and korean online education, sometimes BBC to improve my english in listening, speaking, reading… In this group, I think I do all the things above.(speaking, listening, of course reading.) I have been so much satisfied with this group.”
Thanks again to our wonderful volunteers and all our fabulous reading friends who have created such a warm, welcoming and fun shared reading community on Auckland’s beautiful North Shore!

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