[Daphne Mackey. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010, pp. 125. ¥2,270. ISBN: 978-0-521-74786-8.]
Read This! 1 is a content-oriented, vocabulary-based reading textbook series designed for adult and young adult English learners. I chose to trial the first book in this series, Read This! 1, with my business-major university students because of the relevant and interesting topics available, such as: the story behind the @ symbol in email addresses, the geometry of beauty, the first cellphone novel, baby sign language, accidental inventions, and the study of micro-expressions.
Read This! 1 has 15 chapters, not including the review chapters, which are placed into five units with the following themes: communication, technology, mathematics, business, and engineering. Each thematic unit has three topic-based chapters, which in turn feature secondary content area. For example, within the unit on mathematics: Chapter 7 is in the area of sociology and is about discrimination suffered by a female mathematician in the 18th century; Chapter 8 is about the geometry of beauty in the field of cosmetology; and Chapter 9 is in the area of music and is about the connection between mathematics and music. Each unit concludes with a wrap-up chapter reviewing the three chapters in that unit.
Each wrap-up includes a vocabulary review, speaking activities, writing activities, and a WebQuest. According to Dodge (2007), “[a] WebQuest is an inquiry-oriented lesson format in which most or all the information that learners work with comes from the web.” In fact, Dodge developed the first WebQuest in 1995 (Starr, 2007). Since the online world can be a significant part of our students’ real world, I feel that this is a very appropriate application of their learning. However, caution is required with the WebQuests for Read This! 1. The WebQuests require a full 90-minute class, and teacher guidance is needed, particularly the first time, as finding the correct WebQuest can be confusing. I recommend having students work in small groups with one computer for displaying the WebQuest questions and another for searching for answers. At the end of the activity, answers can be printed out, sent by email, or simply viewed on the computer screen. Although my students could see the benefit of reviewing textbook content on the Internet and enjoyed working in groups to find the answers, they complained that the websites, and sometimes the questions themselves, were hard to understand. In addition, over time websites change and therefore some links have become obsolete.
Vocabulary is a highlight of Read This! 1. A unique feature is that the reading passages have vocabulary identified from the Academic Word List (AWL), a list of frequently used academic words developed by Coxhead (2000). Aside from the AWL, each chapter also lists vocabulary for the unit theme (primary content area) and the chapter topic (secondary content area). These three lists are of a manageable size and presented together in a user-friendly way. Vocabulary is recycled in the form of vocabulary activities before and after each reading. Feedback from students revealed positive impressions of the textbook, not only because it incorporates the latest topics, but also because of the repetitive yet interesting nature of the activities.
As a teacher, I feel that the clear and logical layout makes for a user-friendly textbook. As far as scheduling is concerned, each chapter, wrap-up, and WebQuest could take a 90-minute lesson. Therefore, this textbook would be appropriate either for a class that meets once a week for a year, or for a class which meets twice a week for a semester. Traditional supporting materials are available in the form of a teacher’s manual, which contains tips for teaching, answer keys, and a paper test for each unit. These unit tests each contain a new reading passage on the theme of the unit with related comprehension and vocabulary questions. The supporting materials could be improved by the provision of a DVD with visual materials relevant to each theme or topic.
Read This! 1 provides up-to-date readings on high-interest topics. It also provides useful comprehension and vocabulary questions and matches textbook content to Internet websites in its WebQuests, although the latter requires some improvement. The topics and activities are meaningful to university students today and make this textbook a good choice for providing reading comprehension, vocabulary, and web-based research activities on useful and relevant topics in the university English classroom.
Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly, 34(2), 213-238.
Dodge, B. (2007). What is a WebQuest? Retrieved from <webquest.org>
Starr, L. (2007). Meet Bernie Dodge: The Frank Lloyd Wright of learning environments. Retrieved from <educationworld.com/a_issues/chat/chat015.shtml>