Reading Authentic English Picture Books in the Primary School EFL Classroom

A Study of Reading Comprehension, Reading Strategies and FL Development

by Julia Reckermann (Author)
©2018 Thesis 504 Pages


This book deals with reading authentic English picture books in the primary school EFL classroom in Germany. Questioning whether teachers and researchers underestimate young learners’ competences in English as a foreign language, the author conducted a mixed methods study that investigated Year 4 EFL learners’ reading of six different picture books. While focusing on the learners’ reading comprehension and reading strategies, the study also explored the possible effects of regular reading on foreign language development. The results of the study suggest a greater focus on meaningful reading tasks in the primary school EFL classroom to create a challenging, authentic and individualised learning environment for young learners of English.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Figures
  • List of Tables
  • List of Pictures
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Definition and Clarification of Terms
  • 1. Introduction
  • Part A: Theoretical Foundations
  • 2. Teaching English in the Primary School: Developments and Current Practice
  • 2.1 The History of Implementing FLs in German Primary Schools
  • 2.2 English beyond the EFL Classroom: The Idea of Bilingual Education
  • 2.2.1 Immersion, CLIL and the German Approach to Bilingual Education
  • 2.2.2 Bilingual Education in German Primary Schools: Spread, Issues and Research Results
  • 2.3 The Principle of Content- or Topic-Based Instruction
  • 2.4 Skills Development
  • 2.4.1 Integration of Language Skills and Components in Language Learning
  • 2.4.2 Principles of Teaching FL Skills and Components in Primary School
  • 2.5 Summary of Chapter 2
  • 3. Reading in the Primary School EFL Classroom: Its Developing Role, Curricular Demands, Current Research and Practices
  • 3.1 The Developing Status of Reading
  • 3.1.1 Towards a Communicative Function of Reading: The Status of Reading across Different Teaching Approaches and the Influence of SLA Research
  • 3.1.2 From Neglect to Acceptance: The Status of FL Reading with Young Learners from the 1960s to the Present
  • 3.1.3 Pros and Cons of Early Biliteracy
  • 3.2 The Current Status of Reading
  • 3.2.1 The Primacy of Spoken over Written Language
  • 3.2.2 Curricula and Classroom Practice
  • 3.3 The Prevailing Question of an EFL Reading Methodology
  • 3.3.1 Common Approaches to Learning and Teaching Literacy
  • 3.3.2 A Lack of Methodology for Teaching FL Reading in the Primary School in Germany
  • 3.4 Previous Research and Outlook on Reading Competence in the Primary School EFL Classroom
  • 3.5 Summary of Chapter 3
  • 4. FL Reading Competence: Theoretical Foundation, Definition, Reading Processes and Reading Strategies
  • 4.1 The Eye’s Role in Reading: Reading Rate and Fluency
  • 4.2 First and FL Reading: Challenges for German Learners of English
  • 4.3 Reading Competence: Reading Comprehension vs. Reading Aloud
  • 4.3.1 A Definition of Reading Competence and Reading Comprehension
  • 4.3.2 Distinguishing Reading Comprehension from Reading Aloud
  • 4.3.3 The Role of Semi-Vocalisation and Sub-Vocalisation
  • 4.4 Processes Involved in Reading for Comprehension
  • 4.4.1 Bottom-Up and Top-Down Reading Processes
  • 4.4.2 A Model of (FL) Reading Comprehension
  • 4.5 Text Difficulty and Levels of Comprehension
  • 4.5.1 Factors that Influence Reading Comprehension and Text Difficulty
  • 4.5.2 Levels of Reading Comprehension
  • 4.6 Reading Styles and Reading Strategies
  • 4.6.1 Reading Styles
  • 4.6.2 How Genre, Reading Purpose and Reading Style Suggest Reading Strategies
  • 4.6.3 Defining Reading Strategies
  • 4.6.4 Research on FL Reading Strategies
  • 4.6.5 Categorising Reading Strategies
  • 4.6.6 Strategies on a Continuum: Awareness, Observability and Success
  • 4.6.7 Young Learners’ Awareness and Understanding of Strategies
  • 4.6.8 The Idea of Teaching Successful Strategies
  • 4.7 Summary of Chapter 4
  • 5. Reading Material: Authentic English Picture Books
  • 5.1 The Principle of Authenticity
  • 5.1.1 Defining Authenticity
  • 5.1.2 Dimensions of Authenticity in the FL Classroom
  • 5.1.3 Factors Influencing the Degree of Authenticity
  • 5.1.4 Semi- and Quasi-Authenticity
  • 5.2 Authentic Books vs. Graded Readers: A Reform in the Selection of Reading Materials
  • 5.2.1 Defining Authentic Books and Distinguishing them from Graded Readers
  • 5.2.2 The Trend towards Selecting Authentic Books
  • 5.2.3 Criteria for Carefully Choosing Authentic Books
  • 5.2.4 The Question of Adapting an Authentic Book
  • 5.3 Defining and Categorising Authentic English Children’s Books
  • 5.3.1 Identifying Different Types of Children’s Books
  • 5.3.2 Story Grammars in Children’s Books
  • 5.3.3 A Working Definition of Authentic English Picture Books
  • 5.3.4 Are Authentic Picture Books too Childish for Primary School EFL Learners?
  • 5.4 Reasons for Reading (Picture) Books in the EFL Classroom: The Potential for Learners’ Development
  • 5.4.1 The Educational Value of Books and Stories
  • 5.4.2 Content and Cultural Aims through Integrating Language and Content
  • 5.4.3 FL Development through Reading: Vocabulary and Beyond
  • 5.5 Authentic Books in the Primary School EFL Classroom
  • 5.5.1 Curricula and Current Practice
  • 5.5.2 Pioneer Projects, Previous Research and Outlook
  • 5.6 Summary of Chapter 5
  • 6. Supporting the Reading of Authentic English Picture Books in the Primary School EFL Classroom
  • 6.1 The Notions of Challenge and Support
  • 6.1.1 The Argument for Challenging Young EFL Learners through Reading
  • 6.1.2 Scaffolding and the Balance between Task Demand and Task Support
  • 6.2 An Overview of Support for Reading
  • 6.3 Teacher Support in Reading: Autonomy versus Guidance
  • 6.4 Peer Support in Reading: Cooperative Reading Settings
  • 6.5 Support through Contextualisation of Reading Picture Books
  • 6.5.1 Topic Familiarity, Learners’ Interests and Prior Knowledge
  • 6.5.2 Pre-, While-, and Post-Reading Activities
  • 6.5.3 Visualisations
  • 6.6 Vocabulary Support
  • 6.6.1 Re-Use of Language Already Mastered and a Threshold of Unknown Lexical Items
  • 6.6.2 Pre-Teaching Lexical Items
  • 6.6.3 Deducing Word Meaning
  • 6.6.4 Seeking Translation: Dictionaries, Word Lists and L1 Books
  • 6.7 Supporting Reading through Listening
  • 6.8 Tolerating Ambiguity in Comprehension
  • 6.9 Summary of Chapter 6
  • Part B: Research Design
  • 7. Introducing the Empirical Study: Research Questions, Setting and Participants, Research Design
  • 7.1 Research Foci, Questions and Aims
  • 7.1.1 Details of Research Question I (Reading Comprehension)
  • 7.1.2 Details of Research Question II (Reading Strategies)
  • 7.1.3 Details of Research Question III (FL Performance)
  • 7.1.4 Summary of Foci, Questions and Aims of the Study
  • 7.2 Setting and Participants
  • 7.2.1 Reasons for Choosing Year 4 Pupils at a Primary School with a Bilingual Programme
  • 7.2.2 The Bilingual Primary School
  • 7.2.3 Relevant Information about Year 4
  • 7.2.4 Selection of Participants for the Reading and Control Groups
  • 7.2.5 My Role as Researcher
  • 7.3 Research Design and Data Collection Procedure
  • 7.3.1 A Longitudinal Reading Study to Investigate Reading Comprehension and Reading Strategies
  • 7.3.2 Collecting Data on Reading Comprehension and Reading Strategies in Weekly Reading Sessions
  • 7.3.3 Implementing a Quasi-Experimental Design to Research FL Performance
  • 7.3.4 Collecting Data on FL Performance
  • 7.3.5 Overview of the Overall Research Process
  • 7.4 Identifying the Mixed Methods Design of this Study
  • 7.5 Meeting Quality Criteria with the Mixed Methods Design
  • 7.6 Summary of Chapter 7
  • 8. Research Materials, Instruments and Methods of Data Analysis
  • 8.1 Selection of Topics, Books and Supportive Devices for the Reading Sessions
  • 8.1.1 Choice of Topic-Based Books for the Reading Sessions
  • 8.1.2 Analysing and Comparing the Degree of Difficulty of the Books
  • 8.1.3 Support Provided for Reading the Books
  • 8.2 Research Instruments for Research Question I: Reading Comprehension
  • 8.2.1 Self-Assessment of Reading Comprehension
  • 8.2.2 Oral Reading Recall and Oral Comprehension Questions
  • An Explanation of the Two Instruments
  • Analysing Oral Recall and Questioning with an Analysis Scheme
  • 8.2.3 Written Reading Comprehension Tasks
  • 8.3 Research Instruments for Research Question II: Reading Strategies
  • 8.3.1 Observation of Reading Strategies: Field Notes and Video Analysis
  • 8.3.2 Interviews on Reading Strategies
  • 8.3.3 Questionnaire on Reading Strategies
  • 8.3.4 Organisation and Analysis of the Data on Reading Strategies
  • 8.4 Research Instrument for Research Question III: FL Performance
  • 8.4.1 Language Chosen for the Tests
  • 8.4.2 Tasks for the Language Tests
  • 8.5 Summary of Chapter 8
  • Part C: Presentation and Interpretation of Results
  • 9. Reading Comprehension: Presentation, Interpretation and Discussion of Results for Research Question I
  • 9.1 The Task of Reading and Development of Reading Competence
  • 9.1.1 Presentation of Results
  • 9.1.2 Interpretation and Discussion of Results
  • 9.2 The Participants’ Levels of Reading Comprehension
  • 9.2.1 Self-Assessment of Reading Comprehension
  • Presentation of Results
  • Interpretation and Discussion of Results
  • 9.2.2 Comprehension Levels as Indicated by the Oral Recall and Questioning
  • Presentation of Results
  • Interpretation and Discussion of Results
  • 9.2.3 Comprehension Levels as Indicated in the Written Comprehension Tasks
  • Presentation of Results
  • Interpretation and Discussion of Results
  • 9.2.4 Summary of Comprehension Levels
  • 9.3 The Use of Supportive Devices while Reading
  • 9.3.1 Presentation of Results
  • 9.3.2 Interpretation and Discussion of Results
  • 9.4 Summary of Central Results and Answer to Research Question I
  • 10. Reading Strategies: Presentation, Interpretation and Discussion of Results for Research Question II
  • 10.1 Categorisation of Young Learners’ Reading Strategies
  • 10.1.1 Meta-cognitive Reading Strategies
  • 10.1.2 Cognitive Reading Strategies
  • 10.1.3 Social Reading Strategies
  • 10.1.4 Affective Reading Strategies
  • 10.1.5 Interpretation and Discussion of Results on Strategy Use
  • 10.2 Development of Strategy Use
  • 10.2.1 Presentation of Results
  • 10.2.2 Interpretation and Discussion of Results
  • 10.3 Young Learners’ Awareness of Strategy Use
  • 10.3.1 Presentation of Results
  • 10.3.2 Interpretation and Discussion of Results
  • 10.4 A Connection between Strategy Use and Reading Comprehension
  • 10.4.1 Presentation of Results
  • 10.4.2 Interpretation and Discussion of Results
  • 10.5 Summary of Central Results and Answer to Research Question II
  • 11. FL Performance: Presentation, Interpretation and Discussion of Results for Research Question III
  • 11.1 Presentation of Results
  • 11.1.1 Average Scores on the Tests
  • 11.1.2 Scores Divided by Word Categories
  • 11.1.3 Scores Divided by Areas of FL Competence
  • 11.2 Interpretation and Discussion of Results
  • 11.3 An Influence of Reading Comprehension on the Development of FL Performance
  • 11.4 Summary of Central Results and Answer to Research Question III
  • 12. Summary, Conclusion and Future Perspectives
  • 12.1 Summary of the Study and its Central Findings: Finding Answers to the Research Questions
  • 12.2 A Reflection of the Research Design, Limitations of the Study and Implications for Future Research
  • 12.3 Implications for Teaching
  • References
  • List of Literature
  • List of Children’s Books
  • List of Teaching Material
  • Index
  • Appendix (Online)
  • Series index

← 16 | 17 →

List of Figures

← 20 | 21 →

List of Tables

← 24 | 25 →

List of Pictures

Picture 1:A small reading group during reading session I of the reading study (permission to print this picture was kindly given by the learners and written consent was given by the learners’ parents).
Picture 2:The girl on the left displays her perceived comprehension level by indicating it on the scale while the other children close their eyes (permission to print this picture was kindly given by the learners and written con-sent was given by the learners’ parents).
Picture 3:Analysis scheme to analyse the oral recall and questioning for each book and each child. See Appendix E.3 for a readable version.

← 25 | 26 →

← 26 | 27 →

List of Abbreviations

BIG Beratung Information Gespräch Stiftung Lernen [consultation information communication foundation learning]
BSFU Bilingualer (Sachfach)Unterricht [bilingual content subject teaching (Rumlich, 2016: 28)]
CEFRCommon European Framework of References for Languages
CHILITEXChildren’s literature and experiments
CLILContent and language integrated learning
CLTCommunicative language teaching
DESI Deutsch Englisch Schülerleistungen International [German English learner achievement internationally]
dfDegree of freedom (statistical measurement)
EFLEnglish as a foreign language
ELLiEEarly language learning in Europe
e.g. for example [the abbreviation ‘e.g.’ is only used in brackets and figures]
EUEuropean Union
EVENING Evaluation Englisch in der Grundschule [evaluation of English in the primary school]
FLForeign language
FLLForeign language learning
FMKS Verein für frühe Mehrsprachigkeit an Kindertageseinrichtungen und Schulen e.V. [association for early multillingualism at kindergarden and schools]
GDRGerman Democratic Republic
i.e. that is [the abbreviation ‘i.e.’ is only used in brackets and figures]
IEA The international association for the evaluation of educational achievement
JuLE Junge Lerner lesen Englisch [young learners reading in English]
KMK Kultusministerkonferenz [The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany]
LiPs Lesen im Englischunterricht auf der Primarstufe [reading in the primary school English classroom]
L1First language ← 27 | 28 →
L2 Second language
MSW NRW Ministerium für Schule und Weiterbildung des Landes Nord­rhein-Westfalens [Ministry of School and Further Education North Rhine-Westphalia]
MuViTMultilingual virtual talking books
NRWNordrhein-Westfalen [North-Rhine Westphalia]
MKJS BW Ministerium für Kultus, Jugend und Sport Baden-Württemberg [Ministry of Education, Cultural Affairs, Youth and Sport of Baden-Württemberg]
PIRLSProgress in international reading literacy study
RG 1Reading group 1
RG 2Reading group 2
RG 3Reading group 3
R: Researcher (only used when direct quotations from the transcripts are displayed)
SLASecond language acquisition
TBLLTask-based language learning
TEFL Teaching English as a foreign language
TIMSSTrends in international mathematics and science
YLE testThe ‘Cambridge young learners English movers’ test
ZPDZone of proximal development

See Appendix D.1.2 for an explanation of the abbreviated references made to the transcripts on reading comprehension and reading strategies.

← 28 | 29 →

Definition and Clarification of Terms

English as a foreign language (EFL): When referring to foreign language learning in the primary school, this book will mean learning English as a foreign language, unless stated otherwise. In fact, the choice of a FL depends on different factors, such as the location of the school or the history of a state (see Hermann-Brennecke, 1994; Klippel, 2000: 11ff; Meyer, 1992). In Germany, mostly English and French are taught as modern FLs at the primary school level. However, some schools also include regional languages (like Low German) or languages from border countries (e.g., Dutch) in their curriculum. Still, English in primary schools greatly dominates over other languages. One good reason for that is that English has long since become a global language and gained the status of a lingua franca and is by far the most common L2 in the world (see Crystal, 2003; Seidlhofer, 2011; Saville-Troike, 2012: 9). Also in Europe, English is the most widely used foreign language (European Commission, 2012: 5) and two thirds of all Europeans believe English to be the most useful foreign language for them (European Commission, 2012: 7).

Foreign language (FL) and second language (L2): The terms foreign language and second language will be used interchangeably in this book. The book refers to a foreign or second language when referring to any additional target language which language learners learn in addition to their mother tongue(s), irrespective of whether this takes place in an environment where the language is spoken naturally or in an environment where this is not the case. In other works, second and foreign language do not necessarily refer to the same idea. According to Saville-Troike (2012), a second language is in its general sense a term that refers to any language acquired after the first language. However, in a more specific sense it contrasts with foreign language, as a second language would be learnt within a context where it is socially dominant and needed for, for example, education or employment, whereas a foreign language would be a new language that is not widely used in the learner’s immediate social context. It is often hard to provide a clear-cut distinction between foreign or second language contexts, however. For instance, Phillipson (2007) points out that particularly across Europe, English is gradually becoming an L2 and no longer has the status of a FL. Thus, the two terms will be used interchangeably unless explicitly stated otherwise. ← 29 | 30 →

German as a first language (L1): In order to refer to German school learners’ L1, ‘German as L1’ will be used. Clearly, this also includes learners whose L1 might be different to German or who grew up with German and one or more additional languages. However, because the language of schooling is German, this will for reasons of simplicity be taken as the learners’ L1, in the full knowledge that multilingualism prevails in classrooms.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2018 (October)
young learners mixed methods authenticity foreign language learning text difficulty children’s literature supporting reading skills development
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien. 2018. 504 S. 43 s/w. Abb., 34 s/w Tab.

Biographical notes

Julia Reckermann (Author)

Julia Reckermann qualified as a teacher of English at primary and lower secondary levels. Since 2012, she has been working in the TEFL departments of various German universities, training future teachers and conducting research on teaching English as a foreign language. Her areas of expertise include young FL learners, CLIL, TBLT and action research.


Title: Reading Authentic English Picture Books in the Primary School EFL Classroom
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506 pages