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Language Magazine is a monthly print and online publication that provides cutting-edge information for language learners, educators, and professionals around the world.

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Prereading: Priming the Pump

Have you ever read a book and laughed out loud? Has a book or other text ever made you cry, get angry, or feel scared? If you are reading Language Magazine, the odds are high that your answer is “yes!” While strong readers feel a wide range of emotions directly related to the type of text they are reading, weak readers generally feel only one emotion when they read: frustration. Limited literacy skills present a huge obstacle to learning in general, and although being preliterate does not make language acquisition impossible, it certainly does slow down the process and limit language potential. Individuals who read frequently generally have much larger vocabularies than those who do not. This is true of one’s first language or one’s second. Language learners who read more consistently have larger vocabularies, better verbal skills, better writing, and more sophisticated grammar. The numerous benefits of reading for language acquisition make improving literacy skills a worthwhile endeavor. Reading, however, will not aid acquisition until learners have reached a minimum threshold of vocabulary knowledge through auditory exposure. Beginning language learners can only decode text (connect the written word to the spoken word) when they have already heard the words they see. The key to successfully using reading as a tool to enhance and accelerate the rate of acquisition is to focus on prereading strategies rather than how-to-read strategies. The most powerful prereading strategies are ones that emotionally engage learners. Start by previewing the reading and identifying two to three topics that interest learners. Seek out personal connections and build background knowledge, while strategically weaving new (upcoming) vocabulary into the lessons. Learn powerful prereading strategies at ACTFL 2018 or tune into the livestream session at “Prereading: Priming the Pump.”

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