The main purpose of this study was to identify the reading
difficulties students’ encounter while studying English as a second language in
junior secondary schools in Nsukka Education Zone. The design for this study
was Ex-post facto design. The study was carried out in three Local Government
areas that made up Nsukka education zone in Enugu state. The local
governments are Nsukka, Igbo-Etiti, and Uzo-Uwani local government areas. The
population was made up of all the JSS1 students in Nsukka Education zone. Two
hundred (200) students were purposively sampled. Two schools from urban and two
schools from rural areas, two male schools and two female schools were used.
The instrument for the study was an extract taken from the students’
recommended text. The students read the text while the researcher ticked the
column in the rating scale that has the variable identified. Four research
questions and two hypotheses were used for the research. The results were
analyzed using mean, frequencies, standard deviation and t-test. The results
were that there was no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of
the students in the urban and those in the rural areas in the reading ability
rating scale used. Based on the findings it was recommended that English
teachers should as much as possible teach reading comprehension with teaching
materials such as audio- visual aids, audio tapes, pattern repetition and the
use of flannel boards. Government should provide teaching aids such as audio
visual aids and language laboratories. This will enable students understand
what they are taught.
Background of the study
The history of English language in Nigeria and how it came to be
Nigeria’s second language is not without our knowledge. Nigeria with over four
hundred (400) multi- lingual communities and dialects use
English as her lingua franca and language of commerce and
industry. Anyanwu and Otagburagu (2002) observed that English language came to
Nigeria between 1781 and 1861. They explained that the teaching of English
dated back to the early days of the European trading expeditions. According to
Ogbuehi (2002) English language first came to Nigeria through European trade
and later through the imposition of colonialism that the Portuguese and some
English traders established Pidgin English with the native along the coast of
Niger delta for the trading.
Many factors contributed to the acceptance of the English
language as Nigeria’s national language, one of them being that Nigeria has
many languages and different cultures. Anyanwu and Otagburagu (2002) observed
that the colonization of Nigeria led to the adoption of the language of the
colonial masters. They further explained that the attitude of the colonial
masters towards the use of the indigenous language for official purposes was
negative. This kind of attitude prevented the colonial masters to use one of
the local languages for official functions. These made way for the acceptance
of English language as the best and Nigeria’s national language and lingua
Today English language is the chief medium of instruction in
Nigerian schools. Mgbodile (1999) agreed that the English language is one of
the most important subjects both in internal and external communications and
for gaining admission into institutions of higher learning. He observed that
parents encourage the use of English language and wanted their children to
learn and speak the white man’s language. This is why the teaching of English
language should be given adequate encouragement to make the future Nigerians
fluent in both spoken and written English.
English language is a core subject in all the levels of Nigeria
educational system, and every learner is expected to have at least a pass in
it. The English language is made up of four skills: listening, reading and
writing. Reading is a complex skill which is expressive in nature; it plays a
very vital role in the educational life of an individual. Thus Ekpunobi (1991)
stated that the ability to read is necessary for success in life and it is a
sign of literacy. It follows then that as student who cannot read efficiently
has failed to acquire the skill that will enable him/her to become a literate
person in the society. Therefore, reading is an important activity in a child’s
education because it is a major process towards success in his/her educational
pursuit. After the child has acquired his first language, he must learn to read
the second language under the guidance of the school or other external body. He
must learn to develop skills in reading; such as intensive/extensive,
critical/pleasure reading. Otagburuagu and Igbokwe (2001) agreed that reading
is the key to the most advanced stages. In other words, reading is very crucial
to learning because reading exposes a child to a wide range of information and
knowledge. Yankson (1985) defines reading as an active attempt on the part of
the reader to understand a writer’s message. He states further that a more
demanding type of reading is the ability to critically analyze and judge a
Reading, therefore, is an act of decoding printed matter.
According to Anukam (1999) reading involves the association of sounds and
symbols. Nwadike (2001) suggested that reading is an act of deciphering what is
written. It is a receptive form of communication and differs from speaking and
writing in being a comprehensive activity. It is a thinking process, which
involves making sounds and interpreting symbols. Acquiring reading skills
implies not only the ability to recognize and say aloud the printed words on a
page but also what they mean. Reading involves a combination of activities of
the eye, which is perceives and explores the verbal symbols and sounds, which
discovers and interprets the thought that lie beneath them. It is also clear
that reading means far more than visual exploration of printed or written
words, it is in fact a very important aspect of the art of the psychology of
learning. Reading is thinking and as such a reader has to understand the
author’s thought and not merely his words. The process of reading is very
complex and many phases or aspects are involved in the completion of this
process. The first process in reading is the sensory impression which, maybe
either visual or tactile. The auditory sense is also very important to the
reading process, since a beginning stage in reading is the association of the
printed symbol with spoken language. Reading is seen as an associational
process because learning to read depends on a number of the types of associations.
The child starts learning to associate objects and ideas with spoken words.
This shows that reading is an art depending on visual letter recognition.
The reading background provided at home is a powerful factor in
finding out how well the child will excel in school. Parents, who show interest
in the reading of their children at home, build strong foundation in the
reading habit of their children. A happy home and the presence of variety of
attractive and colorful books for children enhance better chances of reading at
school. Parents at home exert great influence on a child’s life. This means
that if parents are interested in their children’s performance in reading and
thus show appreciation of their success; the child will be motivated. It is
also evident that there is a link between the development of reading ability
and the socio- economic background of the child. Azikiwe (1988) suggested that
if the home and its environment did not provide a child with the opportunity to
use materials that are familiar with the English language, the child’s reading
abilities will be retarded. In other words the socio- economic background of a
child determines to a large extent the success or problem a child encounters in
Another contributing factor to the success or failure in reading
of the child is poor home environment/background. Most secondary school
students especially those from rural areas come from poor homes and as such
lack reading materials because they could not afford the relevant texts. Illiteracy
of some parents also contribute to poor reading abilities of students because
those parents who are rich but are illiterates do not know the value of reading
and as such cannot encourage their children to have necessary reading
materials. Therefore, a child’s home and background determines to a large
extent whether the child will be good or bad reader.
Nevertheless, some reading difficulties have been identified as;
inability to decode printed materials, low retention as a result of regression,
nervousness, mother tongue interference, lack of retention among others.
Regression is moving backwards on already read lines or sentences. Azikiwe
(1988) observed that pupils in the primary schools were often forced to move
backwards to the beginning of a sentence or phrase because of a strange word
which they may come across, thereby losing the meaning of the already read
words. Learners encounter considerable difficulties when learning a second
language especially the English language which is a foreign language in Nigeria
this is because the sound system/ the grammar of the first language (L1) or the
mother tongue impose difficulties on the new language or second language (L2)
which leads to foreign language pronunciation and grammatical errors.
Nervousness affects the reading of some students especially those from rural
areas who may not be privileged to have been taught mainly with English. They
may be nervous when expressing themselves in the English language, because they
feel that others are laughing at their expressions and pronunciations.
The need for good foundation in reading cannot be over
emphasized as there is a widespread complaint about low level of achievements
in the English language among students in secondary schools. The West African
examination council O’ level results has continued to show that English
language has one of the least numbers of passes. The West African
examination council chief Examiners report (1998-2001) has confirmed this
report. Past researchers have commented on the concern of the parents to the
low achievements of the students in English language in both junior certificate
(JCE), and senior certificate examinations (SSCE). The federal government of
Nigeria, in support of the need to improve on the achievement of English stated
on the national policy on education (1998) stated that the goals of primary
education is to inculcate permanent literacy and numeracy and ability to
communicate effectively and to eradicate mass literacy where every Nigerian
will be in the position to read and write.
Despite the efforts made by the government, teachers and
researchers to improve on the reading habits of students, they still encounter
a lot of difficulties in their bid to acquire proficiency in reading the
English language. This problem is peculiar to Nsukka Educational Zone. In
commenting among Nigerian school children, Okonkwo (1998) agreed that:
Our school children lack the ability to read. Even those that
are able to read read at a slow pace and cannot get enough information
contained in the books read. They cannot assimilate or analyze information or
use information in confronting personal problems in life….they do not read
books apart from the recommended and compulsory books.
The above observation which was made a decade ago still implies
to some of our school system. Some children still do not comprehend or analyze
what they have read. The chief examiner’s report of 1998- 2001 also showed that
Nsukka Educational Zone has the least passes in English in senior secondary
school certificate Examination.
Experiences of the teachers and the researchers in the field has
shown that there are some lapses in senior school examination which lead to
poor performance in English language examinations, these lapses have been
traced to poor reading abilities among students. This calls for the reason of
the present study of the reading difficulties experienced by studying English
as a second language in junior secondary school in Nsukka Education Zone.
Statement of the problem
Reading is a pre-requisite for learning and so, the poor reading
habits of the secondary school students cannot be separated from their poor
performances. Poor reading abilities can cause poor performance in examination.
The ability to read well, especially reading and interpreting questions has
been identified as an important reason for this situation. Reading has not
received the proper attention due to it by students. The inability to read
properly may be because of the students’ lack of sufficient skills in reading.
It is often erroneously taken to be the easiest skill which is not. Studies in
reading have revealed that there are all kinds of reading difficulties that
create problems to readers and aggravate learning problems.
Reading, therefore, is most functional when it facilitates the
learning process and effectively promotes our intellectual development. This is
to say that efficient reading certainly promotes understanding, retention, and
recall, transfer of learning and achievement of good intellectual development.
Nevertheless, reading difficulties continues to exist among students,
especially those in junior secondary schools. These difficulties include;
inability to decode printed materials, low retention as a result of regression,
mother -tongue interference, lack of retention among others. These reading
difficulties poses a lot of problems in secondary school certificate
Examination and therefore become a source of concern to teachers,
administrators, counselors, police-makers, students as well as parents.
However, despite research work done on reading problems in Nsukka urban, it is
imperative that a proper study should be carried out in Nsukka Educational Zone
to find out the reading difficulties students encountered in reading,
particularly in regression in their reading comprehension.
Purpose of the study
The general Purpose of studyis to find out the reading difficulties
encountered by studying English as a second language in junior secondary
Specifically the study intends to:
the extent of regression on what was read.
out the extent of regression in the reading comprehension of the students.
how slow reading relates to their reading difficulties.
the extent of mother- tongue interference in the reading comprehension of the
the extent location of school in the rural areas contribute to the reading
difficulties of students.
Significance of the study
In fact, this study will be of immense help to so many
benefactors. Some of them are: the students of English of the junior secondary
school level, the teachers of English, the curriculum planners, other researchers,
parents and society.
The students at the junior secondary school level will be
exposed to better reading skills and this will give them good opportunity of
reading better in their higher level of education. The study will serve as an
eye opener to teachers of English because they will be exposed to better
techniques of teaching reading skills to students of the junior secondary
schools. The study will also help the curriculum planners by bringing to their
focus the extent at which the educational purposes are achieved in Nigerian
secondary schools. With this, the curriculum planners will be able to allot
appropriate time for teaching reading English in the junior secondary schools.
The study will bring to the focus of the researchers the areas that have been
studied and areas that are yet to be studied. Parents and the society will
heave the sigh of relief when their children perform better in school
Scope of the study
The study will be limited to difficulties students encounter
when studying English as a second language in junior secondary schools in
Nsukka Educational Zone.
The content scope was an extract from unit one of the prescribed
text of Junior Secondary School (JSS1). That is; intensive English book one,
titled “Ngozi and Emeka”.
These research questions guided the study.
1. To what
degree can the students recall what has been read from the given passage?
2. To what
degree can Junior Secondary School students (JSS1) read a comprehension
3. To what
extent does slow reading relate to their reading difficulties?
4. To what
degree does mother-tongue interference affect the reading comprehension of
5. To what
degree does location of school in the rural areas contribute to the reading
difficulties of students?
is no significant difference between the mean achievement scores of males and
the mean achievement scores of females in the reading ability rating scale
is no significant difference in the mean achievement scores of students in the
urban and those in the rural areas in the reading ability rating scale used.