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THE USE OF EXTENSIVE READING IN PROMOTING OF PERFORMANCE IN ENGLISH LANGUAGE
There has been a great concern by the government, language teachers, parents, public examination bodies and the general public on the declining performance of students in English at the senior secondary school level. Annual results from WAEC/NECO revealed woeful performance of students who
enrolled for English examination which has become a yearly ritual. The situation has been one of the disturbing aspects of the Nigerian educational system. The Daily Champion newspaper of 13th April 2011 reported that only 20.1 percent of the 256,827 candidates who sat for the National Examination Council NECO in
2010, obtained credit passes in English language. Similarly, results of National Examination Council in four selected senior secondary schools from two education zones in Kaduna state from 2009 to 2011 revealed a low performance of students in English language as shown in the table below.
Table 1.1 Results of SSCE/NECO English Language in Four Selected Senior Secondary Schools in Kaduna State from 2009 to 2011.
|2009||Total number of candidates||Credit pass||Pass only||Fail||Absent|
|G S S S
|G S S S DARAZO||390||0||153||230||7|
|G D S S AZARE||448||5||144||299||–|
|G S S S FUTUK||71||2||27||42||–|
|G S S S
|G S S S DARAZO||572||0||96||470||6|
|G D S S AZARE||532||7||168||357||–|
|G S S S FUTUK||75||5||40||30||–|
|G S S S
|G S S S DARAZO||676||0||362||7||17|
|G D S S AZARE||398||3||196||199||–|
|G S S S FUTUK||105||6||34||64||–|
The table above shows that out of 3,736 candidates that sat for National
Examination Council (NECO) in four selected senior secondary schools from
2009 to 2011 in Kaduna state, only 134 students were able to obtain a credit pass in English.
It has been observed that for learners to be fluent and proficient in the use of any language, a good knowledge of the vocabulary of that language is required. The ideas and expressions students convey both in oral and written communication is enhanced by their knowledge of words, and meaning. Without that, it will be difficult for students at the senior secondary level to express their ideas coherently in their external examinations. Adeyanju (1989) observes that candidates in public examinations have low standard of expressions and scanty, illogical, incoherent and irrelevant ideas. The inability of students to involve in wide reading of different materials in English has contributed to the poor performance in English at senior secondary school certificate examinations. This is because most of the students lack adequate words to express themselves in written compositions to satisfy the demands of the examiners. All these have been the motivating factor in carrying out this research.
Observations have shown that most Nigerian secondary school students do not read enough books, and therefore, lack adequate vocabulary items to express themselves both in spoken and written English (Olarode, 1997, Azikiwe, 2004 and Ioreber 2013). This shows that words are essential in language because they influence what students write in their public examinations. Omosowone and Akindolire (2003) point out that most questions in senior secondary schools examination require candidates to provide words with the most appropriate meaning or nearest in meaning. These words could possibly be acquired through wide reading but observations have shown that most students at the secondary school find it difficult to read books on their own. Research has also shown that there are negative attitudes to reading by most Nigerian school students (Aliyu 1987, Etim 1990, Uya 2004 and Ifedili 2009).
A research conducted by Olaofe (1996) cited in Olaofe (1997) shows that less than 10% of students in Zaria area read English texts on their own. Similarly, Akorede (2002) reports that a high percentage of secondary students in Ondo town do not read for pleasure and they do not seem to know the importance of reading outside the class room. In another research conducted by Eguare (2006) shows that 71.2% of both teachers and students in Sokoto do not read newspapers, magazines, or journals. The early grade reading assessment EGRA conducted in 2011 in Kaduna state shows that 94% of pupils cannot read and understand a simple text. This shows a low level of students‟ attitude to reading which cut across all levels of secondary schools in the country.
Observations have also shown that since the entry of mobile phones, video films and internet into Nigeria, students have concentrated more on phone calls, watching films and browsing irrelevant information from the internet than reading their books. These habits have distracted most students from developing reading culture. Oji (2007) cited in Edom and Ofre (2010) highlighted that the growing incidents of students using the internet is not necessarily for academic purposes but for antisocial activities. Similarly, Ihejirika (2011, p.212-213) has this to say on the attitudes of students towards reading which he says:
A good number of contemporary Nigerian students give much time to frivolities at the expense of more rewarding activities such as extensive reading. For instance, many of them are in the habit of watching home video films most of the time to the extent that they have little or no time for other useful academic activities. For others, even their handsets are source of distraction as they prefer fondling them all day long at the expense of more rewarding activities.
Imhabekhai (2009) observes that poor performance in English language papers is attributed to candidates‟ poor reading skills. This attitude has prevented so many students from acquiring new words to express themselves both in spoken and written English. Baumann and Kameenui (1991) opine that words are the tools students can use to access their background knowledge, express ideas and learn new concepts. Students‟ word knowledge is linked strongly to their academic success. Most students in secondary schools find English difficult because they do not know how to express their ideas using correctly written sentences. To this end, vocabulary becomes an integral part of language development in students‟ life. Rinji (1997) opines that effective and efficient use of a language demands adequate knowledge of it. This use of language can only be seen and recognised by others when the user is rich in its vocabulary. However, it is expected that students who involve in extensive reading of books, magazines and newspapers would be able to apply the knowledge from reading such materials in writing their English examinations.
Extensive reading involves reading of large quantities of materials on a wide range of topics (Alo, 2002). Through that, learners are able to pick up new words and increase the depth of their vocabulary. Barnett (1989, p.167) describes the nature of extensive reading as:
Extensive reading procedures, therefore, assume that students enjoy books that they have chosen on topics of interest more than they will enjoy assigned readings by their teachers. Day and Bamford (1999) also note that in an extensive reading programme, students are exposed to a variety of materials on a wide range of topics available so as to encourage reading for different reasons such as acquiring word registers of different fields used in different ways. Extensive reading programme allows students to have enough time to choose what to read and thus increases their word power, motivation for learning and opportunity for learning vocabulary items in different fields.
Obanya (2002) indicates that exposure to reading materials from other places and other cultures provide opportunity not only for the students to develop their communicative competence in English, but it would also make them educational sound in other subjects. However, as students increase the number of times they successfully read any given word in such materials, their memory for that word becomes stronger. This assertion is supported by Maley (2009) that the only way to learn a language is through exposure to it in context. Thus, for student to acquire words in different contexts, they need to be exposed to varieties of reading materials through extensive reading programme.
The poor results recorded by students in Senior Secondary School
Certificate Examination (SSCE) and the National Examination Council (NECO) English language papers constitute one of the greatest stumbling blocks, not only in academic pursuits of Nigerian secondary schools leavers, but also to their search for gainful employment. Many institutions of higher learning in Nigeria as well as employers of labour require a credit pass in English. Unfortunately, the rate of failure in the subject has continued to escalate. Agumanu (1980), Ikonta (2004) and Odumuh (2004) find out that most students at the secondary school level are uninterested in reading; they have poor reading habit, some of them only read for examination purposes and nothing else. Thus, most students limit themselves to reading only notes given to them by their teachers in the class and only few of them have time to read books and other materials outside the classroom. For that reason, Akinbode (2006) discovers that most of them perform poorly in reading comprehension, summary and essay writing during their external examinations due to inadequate vocabulary usage. WAEC Chief Examiner‟s reports (2003, 2005 and 2006) show that candidates‟ expressions were generally poor and their range of vocabulary so limited.
Nssein (2008) cited in Igwe (2011) identified that poor reading skill is a problem of Nigerian students attributed to difficulty in distinguishing main ideas from irrelevant details and inadequate vocabulary or word power. These probably mean that lack of students‟ participation in extensive reading has contributed a lot of problems in acquiring vocabulary words which they could use in expressing themselves in written examinations. Frank (2004) reports that over the years experience has confirmed that students offering literature only memorised names of the authors and major characters for the purpose of passing examinations without necessary reading the texts. This has led to the massive failure of students in English in senior secondary school examinations. Umolu (1997) opines that students at the senior secondary school level are expected to comprehend a variety of expository text types, to develop study and information gathering skills, as well as higher level of comprehension skills for better performance in their public examinations. These skills are largely not acquired because most students have poor reading habits and limited vocabulary
knowledge to tackle the texts.
Studies by White, Graves, and Slatter (1990) have shown that poor readers often lack adequate vocabulary to understand what they read from a text. Consequently, reading is difficult and tedious for them. Hart and Risely (2003) observe that young students who do not have large vocabularies or effective word-learning strategies often struggle to achieve comprehension. Their poor experiences with reading set them in to a cycle of frustration and failure that continues throughout their schooling. Research has also shown that often students with reading disabilities have lower than average vocabularies. This can be a consequence of the effect of linguistic problems or limited exposure to print (Pressley, 2002 and Miller, 2003). However, the main problems of the study are to determine whether the low level of vocabulary acquisition by senior secondary students can be improved through extensive reading. It is also to determine whether acquiring of vocabulary through extensive reading could equally enhance the poor performance of students in English in senior secondary school examinations.
This study answered the following research questions:
3.What is the effect of extensive reading on students‟ performance in a test of registers of politics?
For the purpose of this study, the following null-hypotheses were formulated
The purpose of this research on the effect of extensive reading on students‟ vocabulary development in English at the senior secondary schools in Kaduna State is to:
The study hopes to be significant since it is expected to expose students to an extensive reading programme which requires reading of different materials in English language. Apart from that, it is also expected to develop reading culture among students at the senior secondary school level.
The study hopes to be significant to students, teachers of English language and the Kaduna State Government. Exposing students to extensive reading would be capable of moving their vocabulary knowledge from frustration to independent level, instead of turning to a dictionary for meaning of every word they do not understand. The research would definitely assist students develop their vocabulary skills by reaching the level of automatic word recognition through extensive reading of different materials in English.
On the side of English language teachers, it would help them have a better way of building the culture of reading and at the same time improving students‟ vocabulary development. These are expected to make teaching and learning of English language in the secondary schools easier for the language teachers and their students.
Similarly, the Ministry of Education, Kaduna State Government would find the research useful because it would give an insight on how to improve the language performance of students by making available relevant books and materials in school libraries so as to give students ample opportunity to read wide and improve on their vocabularies.
This study covered the assessment of the senior secondary school students in word registers of sports, education and politics. The assessment was done in the form of cloze test which was administered before and after reading some selected articles from the newspapers and magazines in the areas of sports, education and politics by the students. The study included senior secondary students of SS 11 in Kaduna state because the assumption was that they were already in senior secondary level a year ahead of SS 1 and more matured in terms of reading of different materials in English. Not only that, the SS 111 students on the other hand may not have time due to their preparation for their final senior secondary school certificate examinations. As such, the performance of the SS 11 students in English was adequately assessed particularly at the level of word registers of sports, education and politics using cloze test. Hence, the need to acquire enough vocabulary to express themselves in different contexts was required from them.
The study, therefore, covered all the SS 11 students in Kaduna state. It was conducted to find out, through experimental research design whether extensive reading of such materials could improve the level of their vocabulary and their performance in senior secondary school examination.
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