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Delta Academic Objectives: Reading Skills

Author: Louis Rogers

1 November 2013

Delta Academic Objectives is a series of course books designed to help students adapt to the challenge of academic study in English.

Reading Skills, first published in 2011, begins with a contents map which details each chapter unit topic title, the focus for understanding the text, using the text to develop reading skills, critical thinking and a dual focus on language development.  It is pitched at CEF B2 to C1.

The book divides the 10 topic units into two groups of five units separated by a revision section which introduces new texts whist revisiting skills developed earlier.  The author suggests that the topics can be studied in any order but advises study of all 5 units before attempting the revision tasks. The topics range from education and culture to personality and ethics. This would make it an appropriate text to use on courses such as pre-sessional or foundation level where students are often from a range of backgrounds or are studying different subject specialisms.

The extract texts are academic and varied though whilst acknowledged are not separately referenced (though they are online).  This is a weakness as the source of material is often a guide to its reliability and authenticity and students are generally encouraged to consider suitability and academic credibility when assessing reading texts. However, in general the extracts are appropriately pitched for university students and provide a useful basis for analysis and developing reading skills.  Students are encouraged to engage in exercises working both individually and in pairs.  These often require identifying examples and detail in the text to support answers. This helps to reinforce a deeper understanding of the topic as well as developing reading skills and critical analysis.

The book uses background colour to highlight and separate the texts.  Study tips resemble post it notes and appear in margins.  A symbol ‘i’ is used to denote important information or points which are also printed in blue boxes to help them stand out.  Typically a chapter might contain three or four such alerts.  Each page has a heading and subheading which helps in navigation.

There are however so many tasks and sub tasks in each chapter that navigation could be an issue.  There are many exercises asking students to look back at other pages so it can be easy to lose your way. Pages often seem extremely busy with so many font styles, colours and exercises that it’s difficult to know where to look. Though students are referred to ‘exercises’ they are not explicitly labelled as such – although page numbers are provided to help locate them.  Full colour photographs, cartoons and charts enliven and support the text throughout though some graphs are difficult to follow and needed to be presented in a larger format.  For example, three linked graphs are presented on leadership but are squeezed into half a page making them difficult to decipher despite multi coloured graphics. Furthermore, we are not told if they are hypothetical or based on real survey data.

The book represents a genuine attempt to engage students in improving their academic skills and encourages critical thinking whilst developing their skills of analysis, interpretation and to think about a writer’s standpoint the logic of their argument.

The text is supported by web based materials where texts and answers are provided for each chapter.  The pdf format limits interaction in that text cannot be highlighted, extracted or annotated which would be possible in a Word format.  Similarly exercises cannot be completed without first printing the documents.

The book is rounded off with an academic word list which students are encouraged to draw upon whist completing exercises.  This is, as it states, simply an alphabetical word list without attached meanings which hopefully would encourage students to look up their meanings

At 128 densely filled pages there is plenty here for students and teachers to work on and if students do indeed practice the tasks they should see an improvement in their academic skills.

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