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Action Research action research Extensive Reading Reading Sustained Silent Reading USSR programme Bahasa Inggeris --------------------------------------------------An Action Research on Promoting Extensive Reading
An Action Research on Promoting
Extensive Reading
Yahya Omar
(Jabatan Bahasa Inggeris)
Surayah Zaidon
(Jabatan Ilmu Pendidikan)
Reading is an important skill as it will affect students performance in all other
language skills. This action research aims to cultivate a reading habit in English.
Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading (USSR) programme is the tool used to
materialise this objective.The research samples are 20 students from a class in the
Program Persediaan Ijazah Sarjana Muda Pendidikan (PPISMP). This research is
divided into two phases whereby USSR is introduced in the second phase. Findings
reveal that USSR is an effective measure that can promote reading among students.
Kemahiran membaca adalah penting kerana ianya memberi kesan kepada kemahiran-
kemahiran bahasa yang lain. Kajian tindakan ini bertujuan menggalakkan tabiat
membaca di dalam Bahasa Inggeris menggunakan program Uninterrupted Sustain
Silent Reading (USSR). Sampel kajian adalah 20 orang pelajar dari satu kelas
Program Persediaan Ijazah Sarjana Muda Pendidikan (PPISMP). Kajian ini
dibahagikan kepada dua fasa di mana di dalam fasa kedua USSR telah dijalankan.
Dapatan kajian menunjukkan USSR merupakan satu cara yang berkesan untuk
menggalakkan tabiat membaca dalam kalangan pelajar.
The best way to improve your knowledge of a foreign language
is to go and live among its speakers. The next best way is to
read extensively in it. (Nuttall, 1989. pg. 128)
Reading opens the mind of an individual as it allows vast opportunities of gaining
knowledge. To do so a reader can put himself or herself in a place or time without
getting into any time machine. It is of utmost importance that students read well in
order to put himself or herself at a higher academic level or to advance into a new
Jurnal Penyelidikan Pendidikan Institut Perguruan Islam, Selangor, Jilid 10, 2007 47
An Action Research on Promoting Extensive Reading ---------------------------------------------------
stage. Needless to say reading is indeed an important skill to be mastered as it
contributes to student‟s excellence in their studies.
Reading is the ability of an individual to recognize a visual form, associate the form
with a sound and/or meaning acquired in the past, and, on the basis of past experience,
understand and interpret its meaning. However, there is no single set of definition for
reading (Rubin, 1992, Kennedy, 1981.) It all depends on how a reader interprets it.
Reading can be just the sounding/verbalizing of words found on a page without
understanding the meaning of the printed words . This can be due to a person‟s strong
feelings that are interfering with his ability to get the author‟s message. Or a person is
able to bring her background experience to the material and extract the author‟s
message. As reading has no definite definition, it suffices to say that reading is a
process rather than a skill. This term is associated with habits or drills that need to be
taught or implemented in order to promote reading independently. This in turn will
improve a person‟s proficiency in the language.
Reading is an important skill as it will affect students‟ performance in all other
language skills namely listening, speaking and writing. The inability to be an
independent reader hinders student performance and thus makes the English lesson a
dreadful 60 minutes of learning.
As English lecturers, we notice that our students face a number of problems that are
significantly shown through their production of the English language either in their
written assignments or their speaking ability. In their written assignments, there are
many lexical and semantic mistakes that interfere with the message that they are trying
to convey. This evidently reveals their limited vocabulary. In terms of speaking, it can
be clearly seen that students are persistently not able to communicate their ideas as
they do not know the words that they should use. Apart from problems due to their
limited vocabulary, we also notice that students face problems in generating, exploring
and explaining ideas. Hence, these problems lead us to believe that our students are not
doing enough independent reading.
This research aims to cultivate a reading habit in English among our students. We
have chosen Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading programme (USSR) as the tool to
materialize this objective. Researches have shown that the programme is a practical
method to be implemented in promoting extensive reading among students (Grabe
48 Jurnal Penyelidikan Institut Perguruan Islam, Selangor, Jilid 10, 2007
--------------------------------------------------An Action Research on Promoting Extensive Reading
1991; Richards 1998). We hoped that in the long run this can help to increase the
number of independent readers among the PPISMP students.
Does Uninterrupted Sustain Silent Reading (USSR) help to cultivate a reading habit in
English among the PPISMP students?
This action research is divided into two phases. Each phase is carried out for a two
month period. In the first phase the students are asked to record the number of books
read throughout the two months in a Reader‟s List (Appendix 1). In the second phase
the treatment i.e. Uninterrupted Sustain Silent Reading (USSR) is introduced. Again
they are asked to record their readings in the Reader‟s List. Students are given the
freedom to choose their own English books to read.
At the end of the second phase the students are to answer questionnaire with
regard to the programme they have participated. The questions are structured and
mostly open ended. The number of books read in the two phases and the questionnaire
are later analysed in order to answer the research question.
The research samples are 20 students from a class in the Program Persediaan
Ijazah Sarjana Muda Pendidikan (PPISMP). All students are in the first semester of the
programme. The students are not English majors and their English proficiency is
average. On average their SPM English results is B. They attend four hours of English
class weekly. In each English class, 10 minutes are allotted for USSR before their
actual English lesson begins.
Extensive reading is the process of rapidly reading book after book in which a reader‟s
attention is on the meaning and not the language of the text (Richards 1998).
Following this concept the text is read for real-world purposes i.e pleasure and gaining
information. Today, extensive reading, in language-teaching terms, is recognized as
one of the four styles or ways of reading, the other three being skimming, scanning
and intensive reading (Richards 1998).
Extensive reading for a sustained, uninterrupted period of time is not only
valuable for developing vocabulary but is also to develop reading proficiency and
language acquisition in general (Grabe 1991, Krashen 1993). Teachers have
Jurnal Penyelidikan Pendidikan Institut Perguruan Islam, Selangor, Jilid 10, 2007 49
An Action Research on Promoting Extensive Reading ---------------------------------------------------
implemented this programme around the globe for nearly three decades because of its
benefits. The programme means putting down a book you don‟t like and choose
another instead. It is the kind of reading highly literate people does obsessively all the
time (Krashen 1993).
Extensive reading aims to get students reading in the second language and
liking it. According to Longman Dictionary of Language Teaching and Applied
Linguistic, it is intended to develop good reading habits, to build up knowledge of
vocabulary and structure, and to encourage a liking for reading” ( Richards, Platt &
Platt 1992). To implement extensive reading in the classroom, at least 10 minutes of
uninterrupted, sustained silent reading is set aside for students and teachers to read
individually anything they wish to before the actual class begins. This programme has
been given the acronym USSR. The objective of this reading programme is to enable
students to enjoy reading and to read without help unfamiliar text, at appropriate
speed, silently and with adequate understanding.
The phrase “to enable students” means to promote the ability of students to
read. In this program, it is what the reader does that counts and not what the teacher
does. “To enjoy” is regarded as students able to enjoy and appreciate reading a book.
To do this, it is very important that books available are interesting for students. Not
many are willing to help students read outside the classroom. So in this program, it is
hoped that at a certain point, students will be able “to read without help”. Teacher will
help initially but gradually the support will be unnecessary. “Unfamiliar text” will
come at the later stage of this program. The program will focus more on familiar text
first as to activate background knowledge (schemata theory) This program also aims to
increase student‟s speed in reading. However, the increase in speed should not affect
the understanding of the text. It will be more appropriate if students can read at
different speeds for different purposes. Since this program is called USSR, it will be
appropriate to read “silently”. Here we are not saying that reading aloud is abandoned,
but we tend to read silently more in the real situation and in the real world. Finally,
“with adequate understanding” means that it is not a must to understand every word in
the text. Meaning making is more important in this programme (Nuttall 1989 pg. 31-
32). Characteristics of this reading programme according to Richards (1998) are:
1. Students read as much as possible.
2. A variety of materials on a wide range of topics is available.
3. Students select what they want to read and have the freedom to
stop reading if material that fails to interest them.
4. The purposes of reading are usually related to pleasure,
information and general understanding.
5. Reading is its own reward. There are few or no follow-up
6. Reading materials are well within the linguistic competence of
the students in terms of vocabulary and grammar.
50 Jurnal Penyelidikan Institut Perguruan Islam, Selangor, Jilid 10, 2007
--------------------------------------------------An Action Research on Promoting Extensive Reading
7. Reading is individual and silent.
8. Reading speed is usually faster than slower as students read
books that they find easily understandable.
9. The teacher is a role model of a reader for students. He reads
together with the students.
As this is an extensive reading program, it will focus more towards the „top
down‟ theory. Top down theory avoids systematic phonic teaching, and focuses on
reading for meaning. Students are assumed to acquire their word attack skill
incidentally. Aebersold and Field (2001) state that the text is always read for
comprehension of main idea and not for every detail and words. This approach
advocates a natural language or „whole language‟ teaching. We want students to use
the language to derive meaning from the text. The meaning is central and any new
language item learnt is an incidental benefit. This is opposite to a language lesson
where we focus on vocabulary or structure (Nuttall 1989). This correlates with the
learning is meaning making theory and construction of meaning. (Piaget 1971) basic
to this principle is the notion that learning most often proceeds from whole to parts to
whole. It is the wholeness that gives meaning to our experience and to our learning.
Extensive reading increases general second language competence and
according to Grabe (1991) longer concentrated periods of silent reading build
vocabulary and structural awareness, develop automaticity, enhance background
knowledge, improve comprehension skills, and promote confidence and motivation in
second language learning.
Student‟s initial successful experiences in USSR result in the discovery that
they can read in the second language and that it is rewarding and pleasurable. This
stimulates the development of positive attitudes toward reading in the second language
and the growth of motivation to read in the second language. These positive beginning
experiences result in greater gains in reading ability and positive attitudes, and an
increase in motivation and enjoyment (Rirchards 1998).
Reader’s List
Phase One
In the first phase of this study, it is found that our initial assumptions are not baseless.
The students do not do enough independent reading in English on their own. The table
below shows the data from the Reader‟s List in the first phase of this study.
Table 1 clearly shows that very few of the students do any reading in English
on their own. In September 2006 only one (5%) student read an English book.
Jurnal Penyelidikan Pendidikan Institut Perguruan Islam, Selangor, Jilid 10, 2007 51
An Action Research on Promoting Extensive Reading ---------------------------------------------------
Although in October there is an increase of another reader, which contributes to 10%
of the class, with an increase of the books read to three, the result is still discouraging.
For both months, the average number of books read per reader is less than 1. Indeed
this is an alarming result.
Table 1 Books Read before USSR
Month No. of Books No. of Readers Average no. of
Read Books Read Per
(N=20) % Reader
September 2006 1 1 5 0.05
October 2006 3 2 10 0.15
Phase Two
Table 2 shows the results of this study during the USSR programme. In the first
month, all students read books in English and the total number of books read is 44.
This is an average of 2.2 books read per student.
Table 2 Books Read during USSR
Month No. of Books No. of Readers Average no. of
read Books Read Per
(N=20) % Reader
January 2007 44 20 100 2.2
February 38 20 100 1.9
In the following month although all students continues to read, the number of
books read drops to 38. Thus, the average number of books read per student drops to
1.9. Although there is a slight drop in the number of books read, the fact that all
students continue reading is very encouraging. This shows that the USSR programme
does work in promoting independent reading among the students.
Based on the question, “Are you a better reader after the programme?”, the majority of
participants responded positively. When asked to state why they liked the programme,
52 Jurnal Penyelidikan Institut Perguruan Islam, Selangor, Jilid 10, 2007
--------------------------------------------------An Action Research on Promoting Extensive Reading
the responses were free to choose what to read (100%), „not tested‟ (85%) and
everybody (students and lecturer) are reading (80%). This correlates with Deci and
Ryan‟s (1985) theory of self-determination and intrinsic motivation, where children
natural curiosity energizes their desire to learn. The self-determination theory suggests
that children are motivated when they have a choice and ownership of what they read.
Therefore, providing children with an opportunity to select reading materials promotes
their literacy development because get to select books that interest them. „Not only do
students read more, but experience with a variety of informative materials help them to
develop a greater respect for the use and value of reading in school‟ (Kennedy, 1981).
In addition, the statement above reinforces the answer given by the participants as they
are very happy with the time given to them for reading. One of the responses was that
the time given was like a transition period to get ready for English lesson mentally and
Human behavior is learned in part by observation and imitation (Bandura, 1986). For
students, a given role model, modelled by parents, teachers or peers may facilitate their
learning of it. Gambrell (1999) stated that students need to see that we value reading
and that reading is important in our lives. Share with your students. What better way to
show them that reading is important”. Findings demonstrate that a teacher‟s role plays
a crucial role in fostering children‟s reading attitude. So it is important here that the
teacher must also read a book when implementing this program. Collins(1980)
comments that „if a valued person is observed at least occasionally to be functionally
engaged in reading, then the probability of independent reading is increased.
Non-accountability is also a characteristic of USSR. Accountability is where
reading is highly graded. This is where students are required do submit records,
journals or book report for assessment. However, for this program the accountability is
rather low as a guide for teacher to ensure that reading is taking place. “Testing
extensive reading can be even damaging if it makes students read less freely or
pleasurably. USSR is a program that focuses on personal reading development and not
assessment for result. If it is thought important to measure students progress in
extensive reading, a simple record of each students of the number of books read, and at
which level, is more appropriate” (Nuttall 1989 pg 218). For this program, as a guide
for teachers, students‟ assessment is observed when students develop their own
reading speed, reading level and understanding of the text. Here it is hoped since no
formal assessment is conducted, students will commit themselves to the reading
programme honestly.
As most of the books selected are within student‟s knowledge and level,
theory of prior knowledge ensure that learning will take place. Prior knowledge is the
foundation upon which new meaning is built. This will link to new ideas, skills and
Jurnal Penyelidikan Pendidikan Institut Perguruan Islam, Selangor, Jilid 10, 2007 53
An Action Research on Promoting Extensive Reading ---------------------------------------------------
competencies. This happens when students personally choose the book they like and
books that students have prior knowledge of. Assigned reading given to students might
discourage students from reading the assigned text due to lack absence in prior
knowledge. Learners learn best when they are interested and involved. Since students
personally choose the book they like, it should interest them and they will be involved
in the reading. The goal of a successful programme should be the development of
readers who can read and who choose to read. In short, extensive reading together with
USSR will give students more freedom to choose reading materials that interest them
and more responsibility in finding materials within their proficiency range. (Aebersold
& Field, 2001)
This action research reveals that our students need to be encouraged to read
independently in English. USSR has proven to be an effective immediate measure that
can promote reading among them. Therefore, this programme should be continued as
it may help to cultivate reading habit among students and this in turn will contribute to
an increase in the students‟ profiency in English.
Reading plays an important role in one‟s life. It is an active skill-based process of
constructing meaning and gaining knowledge from a text. It is an important skill to
acquire as it not only brings a person to a greater height in his life, but it also develops
one‟s personal fulfillment. The importance of reading to students cannot be stressed
enough. Teachers/ lecturers must encourage and find ways to ensure that students
acquire this skill so that they will one day become independent readers.
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University Press: Cambridge.
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Cole, Jill E (2002). What Motivates students to read? Four Literacy personalities: a
teacher uses qualitative research to discover her student‟s intrinsic motivation
to read. The Reading Teacher, Vol 56, 2002.
Collins, C. (1980). Sustained silent reading periods: Effects on teachers behaviors and
students achievements. Elementary School Journal, 81 (2), 109-114.
Deci, E.L. & Ryan, R.M. (1985). Intrinsic Motivation and Self-determination in
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54 Jurnal Penyelidikan Institut Perguruan Islam, Selangor, Jilid 10, 2007
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Jurnal Penyelidikan Pendidikan Institut Perguruan Islam, Selangor, Jilid 10, 2007 55

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