Reading Power, by Beatrice S. Mikulecky & Linda Jeffries
This book is one of several books that are a part of series that seek to teach English to speakers of other languages. Most of this book consists of very workmanlike exercises that aren’t particularly exciting but which seek to encourage the reader to improve their ability to understand writing in English. All of this is well and good, although it must be emphasized that the book has a very plain approach to understanding English that is focused on multiple choice and fill in questions. One of the strengths of the book is the way that the authors manage to connect a lot of different reading material together to teach lessons, as this allows the understanding of one story or excerpt to lead to further understanding of the next one and so on. I can see that a book with this approach that does a better job when it comes to presenting material in an interesting way would be able to do a very good job in providing compelling material. It is striking that this book (and the series it is a part of) focuses on written English given that this is not usually the most difficult aspect of English for others to understand.
This book is about 300 pages long and it is divided into four parts as well as additional materials. The book begins with an introduction. This is followed by an introductory section about reading for pleasure, which is admittedly undercut by the fact that it suggests some rather odd books for pleasure and, by definition, includes reading that the reader may not always find enjoyable (1). This is followed by a lengthy section in comprehension skills (2) that includes units on previewing and making predictions, scanning, making inferences, building a powerful vocabulary, learning to look for the topic, understanding paragraphs, finding the pattern of organization, and skimming. After this comes a short unit on thinking skills (3). After this comes a sizable chapter on reading faster (4), including units on fiction (with exercises on the Diamond family), biography (looking at two popular authors, J.K. Rowling and Stephen King), and nonfiction (giving reading on the Power Magazine), after which the book includes a teacher’s guide and credits.
There are some obvious ambiguities about this book. For one, the book does not appear to advertise itself as being solely for speakers of foreign languages. Indeed, the book’s contents, if one judges the book by its cover, appears to be focused on reading improvement as a whole, even for those who speak English normally. Yet when one looks at the material as a whole, the writing comprehension is so basic that this book is really not appropriate for those who have more than a fundamental understanding of the language. It is quite possible that there are (many) people whose reading comprehension is weak enough that this book would provide them with more reading power, but their reading would have to be at a very low level, as this book is really appropriate for only a late elementary or middle grade in terms of reading comprehension as this book really doesn’t have advanced enough reading learning for high school or university level reading. It would be easy enough to recommend a book like this, except that there appears in this book to be more than the obvious interest of teaching people to read, but also the interest to encourage people to read with certain leftist or “progressive” biases, which admittedly sours me considerably on this book.