Book Rationale


This chapter  includes literature review and references that demonstrate the purpose for the creation of the reading passages. 

The following sections help frame the rationale for this book. Drawing on literature on positive psychology interventions, content-based learning, and research focusing on second language reading, we outline key research that supports and frames the value of this book.

Positive Psychology Interventions

In the history of psychological research in language learning, emphasis was placed on understanding the impact of negative emotions on achievement. However, recently a push to “integrate positive and negative experiences” has developed (Macintyre et al., 2019, p. 263). Positive Psychology (PP) focuses on well-being and using positive emotions to promote personal growth (Macintyre et al. 2019). Within PP is an “umbrella” of components including “strengths, virtues, excellence, thriving, flourishing, resilience, optimal functioning” etc. (Donaldson, S. L., 2011, p. 5). Positive Psychology Interventions denote the practice, or exercise, (Adbolrezapour & Ghanbari, 2021) applied to deliberately increase feelings of positivity (Hart, 2020). They demonstrate relationships to having a positive view of oneself in the L2 and greater self-efficacy (Lake, 2016). The following three areas of focus within PPI were selected for these materials: PERMA, character strengths, and mindfulness. 

PERMA, a popular intervention model created by Martin Seligman (2011), is an acronym for positive emotion, engagement, positive relationships, meaning, and accomplishments/achievements. He argued that advocating for well-being in education is likely to combat depression and improve learning because better moods may result in “broader attention, more creative thinking, and more holistic thinking” (Seligman, 2018, p. 80). 

Character strengths reflect positive qualities individuals possess. Niemic (2018) identified 24 character strengths that define the best qualities in humans (see also Proctor et al., 2011). He argued that character strengths interventions in education have a positive impact on engagement and achievement (p. 30). Furthermore, character strengths “enable learners to feel invigorated, authentic, and intrinsically motivated” (Macintyre et al., 2019, p. 268). 

Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment. Practicing mindfulness allows learners to become more sensitive to context and perspective, and it may improve memory with attentiveness to the present moment (Langer, 2000). Mindfulness can also enable the learning and information-processing areas of the brain to function more effectively (Shapiro, 2020).

Each area was carefully considered based on the benefits they present in education and learning. 

Content-Based Instruction

Content Based Instruction (CBI) is an approach that utilizes specific topics to facilitate language learning. In recent years, CBI, which is also referred to as Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL), has gained wider popularity as an approach to language teaching, and research has sought to investigate the implications of its use in the second language classroom. Douglas (2017) discovered that the strategies incorporated into CBI allow students to have better accessibility to understanding of content. His research supports previous studies which found learning in another language does not hinder the ability to understand target content (Arulselvi, 2016; Grabe & Stoller, 2002). CBI also allows for more cognitively complex linguistic learning to take place (Crandall & Tucker, 1990), promotes student involvement, and activates background knowledge (Grabe & Stoller, 2002). 

As with all CBI, connecting content with language learning outcomes is essential.

Intensive Reading

Intensive reading is usually done within the boundaries of the classroom under a controlled environment. The goal is to obtain detailed information from a text which is usually “short and dense in terms of content and language features” (Renandya, 2017, p. 3). The text is chosen by the teacher and should focus on developing students’ reading skills for a variety of purposes (Harmer, 2010). MacAlister (2011) describes the components of intensive reading through the acronym LIST: learning goals, idea goals, skills and strategies goals, and text structure goals. Teachers can use intensive reading to increase reading comprehension as well as vocabulary, knowledge of content, and grammatical structures (Cardenas, 2019).  

Hence, teachers should strive to make this type of selective reading become an interactive process (Harmer, 2010; Anderson, 1994), utilize appropriate reading strategies (Cardenas, 2019), and increase interest and motivation to read a text for different purposes by using pre-, while, and post- reading strategies (Alyousef, 2006). To elicit interaction, Harmer (2010) suggests encouraging students to respond to the text, transfer their information in another way, or incorporate follow-up or other related tasks. When students utilize their background knowledge to comprehend the text, they can make meaningful connections between the information in the text and what they already know (Renandya, 2017.)

 Anderson (2012) agrees that using reading input is an effective way to create extension or follow-up activities which involve the other language skills, therefore improving overall L2 development. He created a framework ACTIVE to determine key elements that enhance the reading process. He suggests focusing on activating prior knowledge, cultivating vocabulary, teaching for comprehension, increasing reading rate, verifying reading strategies, and evaluating progress (see also Anderson, 1994). Grabe (2010) suggests using similar pre- and post- strategies to increase comprehension.

Many of the tasks included in the template passages have pre- and post- reading strategies which meet most of these elements and are targeted to bring greater student success in reading ability. 

Reading Fluency

Reading fluency is defined as reading “text rapidly, smoothly, effortlessly, and automatically with little attention to the mechanics of reading such as decoding,” (Meyer & Felton, 1999, p. 284). In other words, fluency essentially requires utilizing both reading rate and reading comprehension in the target language (Anderson, 1999; 2008). Although the speed at which a learner will read may vary depending on the task and purpose, most language learners cannot read fast enough to be efficient (Stoller et al., 2013; Grabe & Stoller 2013). In order to read successfully, readers need to develop lower-level and bottom-up processing skills with greater automaticity (Grabe & Stoller 2013, Gorsuch & Taguchi, 2010). By becoming more autonomous in bottom-up processing, readers are able to read more rapidly, and “higher-level skills are engaged” (Villanueva de Debat, 2006, p. 13) .

Research suggests that reading more fluently increased the number of texts that students are exposed to further leading to proficiency gains in reading.(Anderson 1999). Hence, “good readers are fast readers,” and achieving quicker reading rates is “of the utmost importance” (Villanueva de Debat, 2006, p. 14). However, if focus is only given to speed alone, comprehension may decrease (Maluch & Sachse, 2020). To ensure both aspects of fluency are achieved, Anderson (2008) suggests learners reach a goal of 200 words per minute with 70 percent comprehension at appropriate levels.

A longitudinal study using a repeated reading (RR) program to promote fluency not only showed significant gains in reading rate, but the students also stated they felt able to maintain their levels of comprehension and learned better strategies to be more efficient readers (Gorsuch & Taguchi, 2010).

Tran and Nation (2013) conducted a study with 116 participants in an EFL environment located in Vietnam using a speed reading program consisting of a select number of texts with comprehension questions and progress charts. They used graded readers for pre- and post- test analysis to compare control and treatment groups over ten weeks. The results determined that all groups increased in reading comprehension. However, the treatment groups improved in reading speed substantially more, suggesting that the increased speed did not hinder comprehension. Additionally, the treatment groups demonstrated faster reading speeds in other text types. They also compared pre- and post-tests related to memory span, and the treatment groups greatly outperformed the control groups. 

Fluency building tasks require ample at-level reading passages for students to adequately improve in reading proficiency (Anderson, 1999). Henceforth, by developing fluency building materials that support PPIs, students can also increase reading rate and comprehension.

Intersecting PPI, CBI, and Reading

Several research studies conducted show the beneficial outcomes of utilizing content-based material in language learning. 

One study targeting PPIs used a mixed-methods approach to compare listening/speaking tests from a control group utilizing grammar-translation and the lexical approach to the experimental group using PERMA in a content-based approach during classroom instruction. Results from the experimental group indicated a significant improvement in listening/speaking proficiency, and many students commented on feelings of increase to their well-being as well (Cheng & Chen, 2021). 

Another research study in a Taiwanese University used CBI in an English reading class and found gains in reading comprehension from pre- and post-tests. Furthermore, a one-way ANOVA determined that lower-level learners may benefit the most from content-based reading material (Tsai & Shang, 2010). Cunningsworth (1995) argued that in topic selection of reading text, educators need to consider not only the culture and background knowledge of the target students, but also to utilize topics that provide opportunities for language learning whilst expanding students’ experience in general. 

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