It is not easy to give the best definition of literature; even literary theorists and critics have difficulty in defining it. According to Icoz, literature is language in use and so it is not separable from language. But, in her opinion, literature also involves more than language because meanings go beyond it, and the appreciation and enjoyment of reading requires the development of more than just linguistic capacities. She also claims that a basic understanding of language literary texts is essential but not sufficient to comprehend their significiance. (1992:10)
Other writers, such as Murdoch (1978), describe literature as a sort of disciplined technique for arousing certain emotions or as simply a language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree. However, there is one undeniable thing reading books will exert a very great influence on the readers personalities. There are many aspects of life in which literature takes part. This is because there is a continuous interaction between literature and social life. Reading influences both social and emotional development because books teach love, admiration and will even denounce negative behaviour. Thus, literature is an extension of life, but many of lifes situations are often an extension of literature as well. Besides, books give readers of all ages much more:
-development of intellectual horizons
-providing specific knowledge of life, historical events or psychological theory
-forming an outlook on life
-promoting aesthetic standards
Reading for pleasure involves selecting from a wide range of genres that include: thrillers, science fiction, classics, romance and adventure stories.
Reading is central to the learning process, and as Ghosn points out, … carefully chosen childrens literature allows children to develop their receptive language in entertaining, meaningful contexts and naturally invites them to repeat many of the predictable words and phrases, which children gradually take ownership of and add to their receptive and productive language. (1997)
Thus it is advisable to use various books in the classroom, whenever possible, and to get students accustomed to a wide range of literature from the very beginning. Teachers should remember that children usually tend to read books that are enjoyable, interesting or, in other words, books that are a pleasure to read. The selection of a book should provide both entertainment and at the same time it could also be a good source of developing reading skills, which is extremely significant in the case of foreign language learners.
As reading is an active process it involves a variety of skills such as speaking, writing or listening. In order to develop these abilities, several types of exercises can be used in the classroom. But it is important to remember that many books are meant to be read and enjoyed and too many exercises might spoil the pleasure of reading. It is possible, for example, to develop the learners power of imagination through systematic practice or questions, which can encourage students to expect the content of a text from its title and illustrations or the end of a story from preceding paragraphs. As Grellet points out, This type of exercise has too often required students to exercise not only their powers of judgement and appreciation, but extending the range of these exercises to cover other reading will lead to greater discussion and reflection on the text. (1998:8)
I think that, apart from this point of view, there must be variety in the range of such exercises. This is a very important factor in the motivation and development of reading skills. As I have assumed before, reading involves a variety of activities so it should not be separated from other skills. As Laar and Holderness indicate, reading and writing are linked activities, and childrens own reading experiences will help them to become in the future more reflective, analytical and self critical audiences. (1994)
To sum up, motivation is of great importance in the case of developing reading skills in the classroom. This is because most of what we usually read are books, magazines and advertisements that we want to read. However, being motivated by various activities means that we start reading a text prepared to find a lot of things in it, expecting to find answers to many questions and specific information or ideas we are interested in. And this is also a good reason for developing reading skills in the classroom.