Book of the Month
Laugh and Learn
Publisher: Addison Wesley
Author: M. Felder, A Bromberg

ISBN 020-1834146


Memorizing grammar points and word lists can only take one so far. Eventually the only way to get to grips with a language is to use it, either actively through speaking and writing, or passively through listening and reading. Reading is an excellent way to learn, as a reader comes across grammar and vocabulary in context, and also has the chance to go back and study particular usages. It helps if the book has been designed with exactly this process in mind, as has this rather useful little volume. As the authors point out, learning is also helped if the student enjoys the process. Therefore they have selected a set of ten short stories with a humorous theme. For example the first story 'Thank You, Uncle Ben' teaches simple present and simple past tenses and the use of statements. It is also an amusing story which is worth reading for itself.

The book has 163 pages. It can be used by individual readers, but it is designed to be used by a group. Thus at the start of each story there are discussion points and preview exercises to prepare the student for the type of reading that will be encountered. So for example if a story uses irony, or a lot of metaphors, students will want to revise these forms of English before jumping into the story. A good example is one story which uses the idiomatic simile 'As easy as taking candy from a baby'. (The writer then asks, 'Have you ever actually tried taking candy from a baby?') The idiom is explained in a note in the margin, where readers also find reasonably extensive help with vocabulary. After each story, there is a set of comprehension questions designed to check that the main points of the story have been understood. These are followed by more discussion points and a 'vocabulary builder' which consists of about a dozen sentences in which students have to show that they understand some of the vocabulary which they encountered in the text. There is also a short paragraph summarizing some of the more challenging grammar in each text, though this is more to point out the nature of the grammar point, as the authors expect readers to then turn to a proper grammar textbook for a full explanation.

Who is this book for? The book is a class reader. Ideally it should be used in a classroom, with students doing the exercises, taking turns to read parts of the text, and then doing the 'after' exercises, perhaps as homework. The stories are all by American authors, and the material is slightly dated, so what readers get is a humorous look at life in the USA of the 20th Century, rather than a picture of America today. However, the authors have taken care to ensure that most of the idiom and language in the text is still in use.

Verdict: A fun way to develop English skills
Assessment 7/10
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