English for Wizards
More ways to enjoy great literature
By More ways to enjoy great literature
My son's teachers always want students to read a lot. In fact, Peter has to fill in a chart about the English books he reads each day and get his parents to sign it, as proof.
Peter has already finished a bunch of easy children's books, as well as one short novel and a history of Japan. Now he's on "Doctor Dolittle." Meanwhile, I am reading "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix."
Yes, I think reading is really important. Last week we started talking about online literature, but let's face it: Most classic English literature is too difficult for most English learners in Japan. Gosh, it's even too difficult for many native English-speaking students!
Fortunately, there is an easy shortcut to help you enjoy great literature - study guides, such as the ever popular CliffsNotes. These are handy little booklets that summarize a famous work's plot and explain the background and characters. There are hundreds of CliffsNotes ranging from Shakespeare to Charles Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway and so on. These guides are really designed to help American students pass tests at school, but they can also help ESL students in Japan.
First let's look at the official CliffsNotes Web site (http://www.cliffsnotes.com). If you click on "Hot Books" at the right, you'll see a list of free sample study guides where you can read a 600-word book summary and study chapter one. If you want to read the whole guide, you can pay $5 (¥550) to download it in PDF format.
The CliffsNotes site also features online literature quizzes. I was surprised I could get eight out of nine on the "Brave New World" quiz, even though it's been 10 years since I read that book. There are 35 more quizzes here.
But hey, I wonder if we can find other Web sites that let you read complete literature guides without paying at all. Of course we can! A quick search leads us to SparkNotes (http://www.sparknotes.com), a competitor of CliffsNotes. If you do the free sign-up to create a member account, you can download a whole lot of complete study guides.
There is also Barrons Book Notes (http://barronsbooknotes.com) with 300 or so popular literature classics, including "Animal Farm," which I mentioned last week. And if you still can't find something good here, try Bibliomania (http://www.bibliomania.com) for more free study guides as well as downloadable literature.
These literature guides are so popular in the States that some students only read the guides and never get around to finishing the actual literature! Oh well.
Shukan ST: Nov. 7, 2003
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