Reading abilities and motivation towards reading among youth have undergone substantial changesas more and more youth rely on the Internet for searching and exchanginginformation. Hastily browsing through Internet texts is a more predominate typeof reading than engaging themselves into an in-depth processing of the writteninformation among these young people (Chiang,2015).
Nevertheless, in-depth processing of thewritten text with sound comprehension is paramount in further developing theiranalytical and critical thinking skills. Therefore, in spite of the change inthe preferred reading mode among young people, reading teachers and researchersare in constant quest of reading activities to cultivate students’ positivereading attitudes and subsequently enhance their reading comprehension. To thisend, extensive reading (ER) has been identified as one of the most effectivestrategies. ER refers to reading large quantities of materials for pleasure ona frequent and regular basis.
Reading materials can range from short storiesand novels, newspaper and magazine articles to professional reading (Hedge,2000). Extensive reading is widely implemented in language classroomsbecause it is instrumental in motivating students to read and reach higherlanguage proficiency (Day & Bamford,1998; Krashen, 2004). In addition, ESL teachers (Hafiz & Tudor, 1989) havealso employed the idea of ER in their language courses and have examined itsinfluences on language learning. A growing number of educators in the EFLcontext (Iwahori, 2008; Jackson, 2005; Lee, 2007; Leung, 2002; Takase, 2007)carried out ER in their language classrooms and investigatedits potential effects. The results from this line of inquiry indicate that ER contributessubstantially to general language proficiency (Iwahori, 2008; Jackson, 2005), readingcomprehension (Hitosugi & Day, 2004; Leung, 2002; Takase, 2007), vocabulary(Lee, 2007; Leung, 2002; Pigada & Schmitt, 2006), writing skills (Hafiz& Tudor, 1989), reading fluency (Iwahori, 2008; Takase, 2007) and grammar(Pigada & Schmitt, 2006). Moreover, researchers found that ER enhancedlearners’ reading motivation and reading habits (Chua, 2008; Gardiner, 2001;Hall, 2007).Many studies have reported the positive impact of ER, and yet,this approach is still not widely adopted in EFL classrooms. Studies havepointed out several hindrances in implementing ER programmes, such as choosingthe texts with optimal difficulty level, sustaining students’ interest inreading for a longer period, promoting positive motivation towards reading andappropriating supplementary reading schemes (Davis, 1995; Urquhart & Weir,1998).
The most widely used concept for explaining the failure or successof FL learners is motivation. As a key factor in following anything in ourlives (Gardner, 2001b-as cited in Kato, Yasumoto & Van Aacken, 2007),motivation also plays an important role in language acquisition. It provides asource of energy that is responsible for why learners decide to make an effortto learn another language and how long they are going to continue it (Brewster& Fager, 2002).
One ofthe sources to provide language input for EFL learners is through ER (Day ,1998; Krashen, 1982). According to Krashen (1982), the input to which learners areexposedshould be a little beyond their current level of competence, ‘i + 1,’ in which ‘i’ refers to the current language ability of learner, whereas ‘1’ refers to theinput that is slightly beyond thelearners’ current language ability. On the other hand, Day andBamford (1998) offered adifferent model on the difficulty level of the input. According tothis model, ER is beneficial if itprovides language learners with input which is slightly belowtheir current level of competence (i.e., ‘i – 1’).
This way language learners can quickly build up theirreading confidence, readingfluency and build sight words and high-frequency words (Bahmani& Farvardin, 2017). However,a review of the literature reveals that there is little research on the effectsof these two perspectives (i.e., ‘i + 1’ and ‘i – 1′) on EFL learners’ reading comprehension and FLRM. To fill inthe existing gap, the present study aims to shed light on this issue byinvestigating how ER through ‘i + 1’ and ‘i – 1′ materials may influence EFL learners’ reading comprehensionandforeign languagereading motivation. 1.2. Review ofLiterature1.
2.1 TheoreticalBackgroundsNoticing the important role reading plays in language learningand development, ER is implemented in both language arts and English assecond/foreign language classrooms. Many studies conducted with a wide range oflearners and in a variety of settings have yielded positive results. Thecurrent study mainly focuses on relating ER with reading comprehension andreading motivation. This literature review section, therefore, will begin withthe definition of ER and continue with its effects on reading motivation andreading comprehension development of language learners. 1.
2.1.1 Extensive reading Reading is “a complex combination ofprocesses” (Grabe, 2004, p. 14) which involves the “activation of priorknowledge, the evaluation of the text, and a monitoring of the reader’s owncomprehension” (Alderson, 2000, p.
3). Not only language arts teachers but also ESL/EFL teachers regardER as a crucial element for language development and widely incorporate ER intotheir classroom practice. In addition to the term ‘extensive reading’, Krashen(2004) called it ‘Pleasure Reading’ or ‘Free Voluntary Reading’ to convey thesame idea defined by Davis (1995). ‘An extensive reading program is asupplementary class library scheme, attached to an English course, in whichpupils are given the time, encouragement, and materials to read pleasurably, attheirown level, as many books as they can, without the pressures of testing ormarks’ (Davis, 1995, p.
329). Furthermore, effective reading instructionrequires that the learner dedicate time to practicing reading skills. Becauseof the limited duration of class time, the learner needs to do additionalreading outside of the classroom. Extensive reading (ER) is a kind of extendedreading activity that addresses this limitation in class time (Chiang, 2015). ER exposes the learnerto ample reading material “with the focus generally on the meaning of what isbeing read rather than on the language” (Carrell & Carson, 1997, pp.49-50). Davis’ definition and Day and Bamford’s delineationsuggest that taking part in ER provides learners with ample language input, theopportunities to choose reading texts, and the chance to experience pleasure.Unlike intensive reading, which emphasizes decoding skills and focuses oncomprehension of the text, ER centers on readers’ prolonged engagement inreading activities.
One of the most frequently cited theoretical underpinningsfor ER is Krashen’s Input Hypothesis, which states that sufficient exposure tocomprehensible input is indispensable for language learners to acquire thelanguage. Comprehensible input denotes the kind of input that is a little bitbeyond the learner’s current language level and is usually symbolized with theexpression, ‘i + 1’ (Krashen, 2002; Mitchell & Myles, 2004). ‘i’ refers tothe current language ability of the learner, whereas ‘1’ indicates the input thatis slightly challenging for learners’ current language ability.
Krashen assertsthat i + 1 is the prerequisite condition for language acquisition to take place(Krashen, 2002). This theory highlights the importance of input as well as thecomprehensibility of the input.However, Day and Bamford (1998) hold a differentperspective on the optimal difficulty level of the input.
As far as ER isconcerned, they believe it is beneficial to provide language learners withinput that is slightly below the learners’ current language level. In otherwords, instead of ‘i + 1’, Day and Bamford (1998) see ‘i 1′ as the learners”comfort zone’ where language learners can quickly build up their readingconfidence and reading fluency. They also pointed out that reading books withease at the beginning helps language learners build sight words andhigh-frequency vocabulary (Chiang, 2015).Comparing Krashen’s ‘i + 1’ hypothesis with Day andBamford’s ‘i 1’ statement, two principles can be derived. First, language inputplays a crucial role in language learning and providing language learners withample access to input is important. Secondly, not only the quantity of inputmatters but also the quality is important.
The quality of input mainly concernshow comprehensible the input is to the intended learners. Nevertheless, thedispute between ‘i + 1’ and ‘i -1’ remains unsolved. That is the rationalebehind this study. 1.
2.1.2. Reading motivation Motivation is one of the most appealing, multi-faceted,influential and complex factors in the learning process used to explainindividual differences in language learning (Lim, 2007; Jahansouzshahi, 2009).Motivation is of “particular interest to L2 or FL teachers, administrators andresearchers, because it can be presumably enhanced in one specific learningcontext but weakened in another learning context” (Yuanfang, 2009, p. 87).
Thereis little doubt that motivation can greatly facilitate language learning process(Arnold & Brown, 1999).Motivation is influenced by a “combination of manyfactors including effort, desire, and satisfaction with the learning situation.Different types of motivation have been discussed in related literatureincluding integrative, instrumental, intrinsic, and extrinsic motivation.Several studies have investigated motivation and foreign language reading, butthere are few studies on the direct relationship between the two. 1.
2.1.3. Taxonomy of Text DifficultyKrashen’s Input Hypothesis claims that an essential conditionfor language acquisition to occur is that “The acquirer understands inputlanguage that contains structure ‘a bit beyond’ his or her current level ofcompetence. If an acquirer is at stage i, the input he or she understandsshould contain i +1” (Krashen, 1981, p.
100). According to this assumption, Krashen (1985)explained that the i +1 stage represents some linguistic elements in the textthat the reader has not yet mastered and that are beyond the reader’scompetence. However, the scope of the input corresponding to i+1 is still notclear. Severalquestions can be raised, such as what degree of increase in difficulty is justfar enough, and whether input of i +1 is suitable for English learners ofdifferent English abilities. Other relevant questions include what other levelsof input can be involved and whether other levels of input may contribute toimproving FL/SL learners’ reading.In this study, text difficulty will be determined bylinguistic elements. This study adopts readers which are graded in terms ofvocabulary and sentence structure (Pearson Education Limited, 2012). Thelinguistic elements of the input considers in the current study are vocabularyand syntactic structures which were also investigated in Day and Bamford’s(2002) study.
Following Samuel’s (1994) terms, three levels of text difficultywere used in this study: (a)level i -1 represents vocabulary and syntactic structures below the learner’sEnglish linguistic competence; (b) level i represents vocabulary and syntacticstructures at the learner’s current English linguistic competence; and (c) leveli +1 represents vocabulary and syntactic structuresbeyond the learner’s English linguistic competence. 1.2.2. Experimental studies Related to this study, Lin (2012) investigatedwhich level of graded reader was most appropriate for Chinese-speaking learnersof various English abilities and whether there were significant differences inreading comprehension and vocabulary acquisition when different Englishproficiency (EP) groups read texts of varying difficulty levels. Eight-twosenior high school students in Taiwan were divided into low, medium and high EPgroups (LEP, MEP, and HEP).
They read graded readers at Level 2, Level 3, andLevel 4 after class and completed comprehension and vocabulary tests, and atext difficulty questionnaire. The results show, first, that the most suitablegraded readers for LEP, MEP, and HEP groups were found. Second, there were significantdifferences among the three EP groups in the comprehension and vocabulary testscores of these readers. Third, there was a significant correlation betweenreading comprehension and vocabulary acquisition when each group read the textappropriate for its level of linguistic competency.Moreover, Rahmany, Zarei, and Gilak (2013) investigatethe effect of extensive reading (ER) on Iranian EFL learners’ motivation forspeaking. The participants were 60 students from different levels (i.
e., 20elementary, 20 intermediate and 20 advanced) at an English institute in whichthere was a library. The participants did ER for twelve weeks (2 semesters) andstudied three books (graded readers) in one week. To meet the aim of the study,a 155-item questionnaire (Gardner’s 104-item AMTB questionnaire (Gardner, 1985)and 51-item, questionnaire developed by Schmidt et al.
, 1996) were administeredto the participants. Data were analyzed using ANOVA. Results indicated that ERdid not have a significant effect on EFL learners’ motivation forspeaking across the three levels. In another study,Bilikozen and Akyel (2014) explored the relativecontribution to EFL reading comprehension of the following individual-difference variables: priorknowledge, topic interest, linguistic proficiency,gender, reading motivation, and metacognitive awareness. It also investigated the relationship between the aforementioned individualdifferences and the role of text difficultyin EFL reading comprehension. The participants of the study were 66 Turkish students studying English for academic purposes at astate university in Turkey. The participants’level of reading comprehension was assessed through reading recall protocols.
The data, which had been collected throughseveral tests and questionnaires, wereanalyzed using hierarchical multiple regression procedures. Results indicatedthat linguistic proficiency,reading motivation and prior knowledge, in order of significance, account for 54% of the variability in the readingcomprehension of the participants. Furthermore,text difficulty was found to have an influence on the contribution to L2reading comprehension of theselected individual-difference variables.Chiang (2015) investigatedthe effects of varying text difficulty on L2 reading attitudes and readingcomprehension. To provide the optimal challenge for L2 reading, comprehensibleinput hypothesis postulates that choosing text slightly harder than the learner’scurrent level will enhance reading comprehension. Fifty-four freshmen from oneuniversity in central Taiwan were randomly divided into two groups. Students inthe ‘i 1’ group were given level 3 andlevel 4 Oxford Graded Readers while students in the ‘i + 1’ group were providedwith level 5 and level 6.
Quantitative data were obtained via the EnglishPlacement Exam and the Reading Attitudes Survey. Results from the pretest andposttest of the Reading Attitudes Survey suggest that the i 1 group has gained significantly in readingattitudes, whereas no difference in reading attitude was identified with the i+ 1 group. Results also indicate that varied difficulty levels of reading textdid not significantly affect participants’ reading comprehension.
Recently, Bahmani andFarvardin (2017) examined the effects of different text difficulty levels onforeignlanguage reading anxiety (FLRA) and reading comprehension of English as a ForeignLanguage (EFL) learners. To thisend, 50 elementary EFL learners were selected from two intact classes (n = 25 each). Each class was assigned to a text difficulty level(i.e., ‘i + 1′ and’i – 1’) in which theparticipants experienced extensive reading at different levels of difficulty for two semesters. A reading comprehension test andthe Foreign Language Reading Anxiety Scale (FLRAS) wereadministered before and after the treatment.
The resultsrevealed that both text difficulty levels significantly improved theparticipants’ reading comprehension. The findingsalso showed that, at the end of the study, the ‘i + 1’ group’s FLRA increased, while that of the ‘i – 1’ group decreased. 1.3.Statement of the ProblemInput is one of theimportant components of the language learning puzzle. As a language teacher, Ihave come to realize the significance of using comprehensible input in an EFLIranian context.
Intuitively one feels that increased motivation can lead to betterlanguage development and performance. Research has also confirmed that thesuccess or failure in foreign and second language learning depends onmotivation (Lightbrown & Spada, 2001). Onthe other hand some others claim that using and understanding different inputscan be difficult for learners and as a result they lower students’confidence and motivation. Rivers, for example, argues that “rushingstudents too soon into reading material beyond the present capacity for fluentcomprehension with occasional contextual guessing … destroys confidence” (1981,p. 260).
In addition, Williams (1984) and Morrison (1989) believe that usingdifficult input may reduce student motivation. Thus there is noconsensus in the literature on the usefulness of text difficulty levels in anEFL context. Therefore, in this study, the researcher will use i+1 and i-1input to see if it has any significant effect on students’ motivation andreading comprehension.