Prism Reading 1

Book Writer & Publisher: 
Michele Lewis and Richard O’Neill. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Reviewed by Jay Palarino, Fukuoka Medical and Sports Vocational School

[Michele Lewis and Richard O’Neill. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018. p. 168. ¥4,844. ISBN: 9781108556194.]

Prism Reading 1 is the second in a series of five texts. The key focus of this series is on developing academic reading abilities, as well as analytical and critical thinking skills for students looking to enter into academic college programs. Units are divided thematically, covering a range of academic disciplines a student may wish to pursue. Topics such as sociology and urban planning, anthropology and cultural studies, and computer science and engineering are all covered. The textbook is illustrated throughout with glossy, full-color photos of each topic. The entire series has an academic focus spanning CEFR levels A1-C1 with the level of Prism Reading 1 (Level 1) being appropriate for students at the A2 level.

As well as the central aims of the series, the textbook’s objectives include key reading skills, such as scanning, previewing, synthesizing, annotating, and making inferences. These are all essential skills for a successful language learner (Ishikawa, Sasaki, & Yamamoto, 2011). The textbook also covers grammar skills and a range of academic vocabulary. These words, taken from the Academic Word List (Coxhead, 2000), are labeled for special attention in the text and in the glossary section at the end of the textbook.

Each unit begins by presenting its learning objectives and a few introductory questions to help activate student interest. There are two main reading passages per unit, as well as various other shorter passages. Each unit has a unique theme and content. Each reading passage is preceded by supporting exercises. These present new vocabulary and pre-reading tasks to help provide essential scaffolded instruction. This helps with the later critical thinking and group tasks.

The readings are sufficiently varied in content and format, and passages are presented so as to look like real-world articles, websites, fact-sheets, and surveys. The wide-variety of content matches well with each unit’s educational objectives. Each unit contains post-reading activities that provide supplementary material for the main text. In addition, each unit provides tasks for students to collaboratively work and learn together, as well as to develop their critical and creative thinking skills based on Bloom’s taxonomy for learning objectives (Anderson & Krathwohl, 2001). For example, the second unit, Festivals and Celebrations, is full of readings on a diverse collection of worldwide celebrations. The accompanying activities allow students to synthesize the language content into their lives and culture with the aim of increasing students’ interest and motivation. This work also helps enhance their social relationships and overall speaking ability (Haga, 2018) through teamwork.

The end of each chapter builds on and reviews each unit with language development and watch and listen sections. The former section focuses on related grammar points, such as frequency adverbs or prepositions of movement. The latter section includes exercises centred around video content sourced from real-world video footage that contains its own critical thinking and collaboration tasks.

Finally, this series also provides other resources, such as an online learning component that includes an online workbook and additional reading passages which are ideal for homework assignments. Students can also download the audio content to listen to whenever they like. The presentation plus section also provides teachers with interactive presentation materials for the class. These materials can be accessed by using an activation code found in each copy of the text and which is valid for 12 months.

This particular year has been a great challenge for teachers worldwide and many of my own classes were conducted online rather than in a classroom. However, whether implemented online or face-to-face, each unit, with all its additional tasks and activities, has enough material for two 90-minute classes. Many of the collaborative activities, which focus on smaller groups and pairwork, can easily work in an online classroom.

Overall, each unit provides its own content for generating new discussions and interest on a wide range of disciplines and can provide an essential reading component to a second-language curriculum while enabling the teacher or students to choose which units they want to focus on. The textbook is suitable for teachers who teach academically-motivated students at the high school or university level. It could also fit very well for teachers looking to add a simple but effective reading component to their curriculum.


Anderson, L. W., & Krathwohl, D. R. (Eds.) (2001). A taxonomy for learning, teaching, and assessing: A revision of Bloom’s taxonomy of educational objectives. Longman.

Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly, 34(2), 213-238.

Haga, S. (2018). Critical thinking and discussions in a Japanese university EFL setting. In P. Clements, A. Krause, & P. Bennett (Eds.), Language teaching in a global age: Shaping the classroom, shaping the world. JALT.

Ishikawa, Y., Sasaki, D., & Yamamoto, S. J. (2011). Integrating critical thinking skills into the EFL classroom. In R. Stroupe, & K. Kimura (Eds.), English language teaching practice in Asia (pp. 127-141). IELTS.