Finding a novel written for native speakers that ESL students can read with relative ease is not easy. The language should be a bit challenging in order for the students to progress to another level of reading comprehension, but it should not be anywhere near frustration level. Although "scientific" tests of reading difficulty can be applied to a text, experienced librarians and experience ESL teachers should be able to gauge what their students can and cannot read.
When choosing materials, the ESL Coordinator and the Librarian Coordinator have agreed on some basic criteria for selecting titles. Once we established our criteria, the Librarian Coordinator met with other librarians to raise awareness of the needs of the ESL students and the ESL program. Four librarians and ESL Coordinator have selected appropriate titles for the ESL collection.
1) Students taste
Teachers and Librarians must consider the students' tastes. For example, some students may prefer fantasy while others prefer historical fiction. The biggest challenge was finding novels with adult protagonists. My research showed that most libraries stock their ESL reading collections with novels involving teenagers. Another challenge is finding novels set in modern times so student can be exposed to the modern figures of speech and modern cultures.
Is the language plain, common usage and in the present tense? Does the text avoid difficult dialects, regional expressions, slang, and cliques?
3) Action VS. Description
Ideally, there should be more action than description in the novel. Novels with a considerable amount of description usually tend to bore the students. One notable exception that I have found is Steinbeck's The Pearl which contains a great deal of description; most students, however, find the description extremely beautiful and enjoy the novel.
Does the writer use short, common words? Are technical or difficult words explained and repeated, so they can be learned?
5) Sentence and Paragraph Structure
Are the sentences and paragraphs simple, short, and clear? Is each sentence introduced with a capital?
Do single thoughts completed in two or three simple sentences make up a paragraph?
How did we implement this ESL project and design the website?
We had the content or the novels. Now it was time to develop the ESL website.
The second step was to train the library staff, to increase their awareness of the ESL project and to understand the reading levels of the ESL students. Once the Library Staff understood the purpose of the ESL Project, they were able to offer valuable suggestions to the ESL website design.
example, the Librarian Coordinator met with the Cataloging
Librarian and Library Technician to
discuss the best practices to
cataloging ESL collection.
This turned out to be more complicated then expected.
In a nutshell, the cataloging department made these recommendations:
1) ask Information Systems (IS) to write a special "script" that would allow students to search for the novels by class name.
2) get approval from IS and Grossmont Library to allow us to have a separate call number designation for ESL.
2) cataloging technician to add an annotation into each individual book record to spark student interest.
3) cataloging technician to add more detailed notes and cross references so students can find related materials.
The third step was to tackle the problem of shelving the ESL collection.
The Librarian Coordinator met with the Technical Circulation Staff to
discuss the physical whereabouts of the ESL collection. The
Technical Circulation Department made these recommendations:
1) Create a separate shelf in the Library so that students can browse and select a novel.
2) Each book had to be identified as ESL with a color-label.
3) ESL signs and posters need to be posted to publicize the collection.
In summary the individual strength of the team was used; some were terrific at trouble-shooting, others great at details. All were competent at asking questions and keeping the ESL Project moving forward.
Project leader will inform and update the ESL students and instructors. ESL instructors will receive training on how to use the ESL website and how to link it to their homepages.
librarians will continue to select titles that will appeal to ESL
students. We will want to know how effective our efforts have been in
meeting the aims of the ESL program and in reaching ESL students.
Methods of assessment will include interviews with ESL students and feedback from ESL instructors.