Reading Skills

Sadruddin Ahmed..

Lesson One

For non-native speakers of English, reading is extremely important. (1) It can give them access to information available in English.(2) It can open up before them the splendours of literature written in English and the full resources of the language(3) It can reinforce their grasp of the grammatical system in English and enlarge their vocabulary. (4) It can develop their insight into how ideas are organized. All these, in turn, can improve their own writing skill. However, it is not enough to read. To get the most out of reading, one must know how to read effectively. In the reading passages that follow, I have drawn up a series of exercises calculated to improve the students’ reading skills.

Passage-1

The Lion

The lion is called the king of beasts. Lions are found living wild in the grasslands of Africa. They hunt smaller animals and feed on them. There are no wild lions in Europe, but there are captive lions in European zoos
The male lion is a beautiful animal. Round his head he has a long ring of hair called a mane. When the lion is young, the hair of his mane is yellow. When he is old, the hair is sometimes black. The female lion, or lioness, does not have a mane.
Lions are dangerous animals. A lion can kill a man.
1. Grammar
Article use: The article system in English is difficult and complicated. As articles are sparingly used in Bangla, Bangla-speaking people should be particularly sensitized to article usage in English. Let us look at the use of articles in the following sentences:
The lion is the king of beasts.
Lions are found living wild in the grasslands of Africa.
A lion can kill a man.
In the first sentence, the definite article has been used before ‘lion’ and ‘king’. In the second sentence, no article has been used before ‘Lions’. In the third sentence, two indefinite articles have been used: ‘a lion’ and ‘a man’. What rules can we deduce about the use of articles from these examples? All these statements are generalizations. In other words, they are true of all lions and have the same meaning. But there are register differences. The first statement is formal; the second is less formal and the third is colloquial. More examples:
The cat is a domestic animal.
Cats are domestic animals.
A cat is a domestic animal.
The first rule we can deduce from the examples is that if we make a generic statement, we have three options as given above. The second rule is that if a noun is followed by an of-phrase, the noun takes the definite article: the king of beasts; the grasslands of Africa. The third rule is that a singular countable noun takes an indefinite article: a lion; a dangerous animal. The fourth rule is that plural nouns signifying generalizations do not take any article:
Lions are found living wild in the grasslands of Africa.
Lions are dangerous animals.

2. The use of tenses
Let’s look at the following sentences:
They hunt smaller animals and feed on them.
Round his head he has a ring of hair called a mane.
The female lion, or lioness, does not have a mane.
In the above sentences, the simple present tense has been used. We use this tense to express habits or describe the nature of somebody or something, or to convey the idea of possession. In the first sentence, the nature or habits of lions are expressed. The second and third sentences convey the idea of possession. More examples:
Most people enjoy games and sports.
Infants feed on milk.
He has a car.

3. Modals
Modals are helping verbs. They combine with lexical verbs to express meanings.
In the following sentence, the modal ‘can’ together with the lexical verb ‘kill’, expresses ‘ability’ or ‘likely to’. A lion can kill a man. More examples:
She can sing well.
Children can be annoying.

4. Sentence Structures
The following sentence structures have been used in the passage:
a)    Subject +Linking-Verb + Noun-Complement
The male lion is a beautiful animal.
Lions are dangerous animals.

We use this structure to introduce someone or to define something. More examples:
He is a politician.
A table is a piece of furniture.
b)    Subject + Passive Verb
The lion is called the king of beasts.
Lions are found living wild in the grasslands of Africa.
We use the passive voice when the agent is less important than the action performed or when the agent is unknown. More examples:
Jute is grown in Bangladesh.
He was killed last night.
She was found sleeping on the sofa.
c)    Subject+ Transitive Verb+ Object
The male lion has a mane.
The female lion does not have a mane.
A transitive verb must have an object (noun / pronoun or noun equivalent). Its function is to pass the action on to the object. More examples:
He has bought a car.
She has written a book.
d)    There + be+ Subject +Adverb of Place
There are no wild lions in Europe, but there are captive lions in European zoos.
We use this structure to express the existence of someone or something. The word ‘there’ is not the subject of the sentence. It is called an introductory ‘there’. The subject comes after the verb which agrees with the subject, not with ‘there’. More examples:
There is a university in this town.
There are a number of clinics here.
Note that the subject is followed by an adverbial of place.

5 .Prepositions
Prepositions cause a lot of trouble to non-native speakers. The following prepositions or prepositional phrases (prepositions +objects) have been used in the passage:
of beasts
in the grasslands of Africa
in European zoos
round his head
Of-prepositional phrase indicates that the noun is a part of something: the king of beasts, ; in- type prepositional phrase indicates a large area or an enclosure: in the grasslands of Africa; in European zoos. The grasslands being part of Africa, it is followed by of-phrase: of Africa; round- type prepositional phrase indicates  surrounding somebody or something: round his head.
Adverbial clauses
When the lion is old, it is yellow.
When the lion is old, it is sometimes black.
In both sentences, the when- clause is an adverbial of time. It modifies the verb in the main clause. More examples:
When he was 15, he passed his SSC exam.
When he arrived home, he found the door locked.

7. Vocabulary
Vocabulary is important but difficult to remember. There are a number of ways you can get to know the meanings of words. One is to look up unfamiliar words in the dictionary. But it is tedious to look up every unknown word. Besides, it slows down the reading speed. Another way is to guess the meaning from context clues. For example, if you don’t know the meaning of the word dangerous, you can guess the meaning from the statement that follows: It can kill a man. Obviously ‘dangerous’ means something which causes harm or death. Similarly, you can guess the meaning of beautiful when you take it in conjunction with the mane of the lion .Beautiful means something nice to look at. When you take the word captive in connection with zoos, you correctly infer that a captive lion lives in an enclosed area.

8. Cohesion:
The passage is not a series of isolated sentences. The sentences are linked together by a number of cohesive devices which are as follows:
Pronoun references: they; it. These pronouns refer back to the nouns in the previous sentences.
Repetition of words: Certain words have been repeated. The repeated words are lions: animal; hair
Synonyms: These are words having more or less the same meanings:  lion; beasts; animals.
Antonyms: These are words opposite in meaning: wild /captive, young/old, male/ female, beautiful/dangerous
Superordinates/Hyponyms: Certain words which are general terms are called superordinates, and the specific terms are called hyponyms. Beasts; animals are superordinates, whereas lion or lioness are hyponyms.

9. Coherence:
A passage can be cohesive without being coherent. What makes a passage coherent is the logical sequence between sentences. The passage under discussion is a short essay on the lion. The first sentence is introductory. It tells us what the lion is. But the introductory sentence has not been supported or developed. We are not told why the lion is called the king of beasts. Perhaps this is because it is difficult to provide supporting details for a statement like this. However, the rest of the passage follows a definite sequence. It speaks of lions’ habitats, their food, their looks and their dangerous nature. Thus the whole passage is fairly well-organized.

Exercises
1.    a) How are lions classified in the passage?
b) How can you distinguish a male lion from a female one?
c) Does the author suggest that the female lion is less attractive than the male lion? If so ,is it true of all female birds and beasts? How about human beings?
d) Looks are deceptive. How far is this true of the lion?
2.    Fill in the blanks with words taken from the passage.
a) A deer is a——animal.
b) Leopards are— animals.
c) It is wrong to—–migratory birds.
d) Royal Bengal tigers are found living—–in the Sunderbans.
e) Cats—-mice and—- them.
3.    Match the words in Column 1 with words in Column 2.
Column 1    Column 2
young    flowers
black    lioness
yellow    hair
4.    Give the nouns of the following adjectives and make your own sentences with them.
captive; dangerous; beautiful; wild
5.    Some of the sentences in the passage are factual statements; others are opinions. Which are facts and which are opinions?
6.    Read the passage and use articles where necessary:
Dog has been man’s best friend for thousands of years. Dogs are friendly, obedient, and faithful animals. King Edward V11 of England had pet terrier called Ceasar. When  king died in 1910, Ceasar led funeral procession, walking before kings and princes. After famous composer Mozart had died, only one living creature followed his coffin to grave. It was his faithful dog.
7.    Describe your food habits.
8.    Ask questions to which the following statements are the answers, using question words instead of the words in italics. Question words include: where; what; why; how. In an interrogative sentence the verb is placed before the subject. Example: He is from Rangpur.( Statement or Declarative Sentence) Where is he from? (Question or .Interrogative Sentence)
a) Lions are found living wild in the grasslands of Africa.
b) Lions feed on smaller animals.
9. Write a short essay on ‘The Cat’, using the pattern employed in the passage.

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