According to Richard R. Day, "One of the more complex tasks facing the English as a foreign language (EFL) reading teacher is the selection of appropriate reading passages. Field researchers, such as Melvin and Stout, Fox, and Gebhard, have identified certain factors that need to be considered when preparing material for ESL-EFL classes. The most significant factors in the reading selection process are related to the students: the students' level, interests, needs, and background knowledge. Other factors are related to the text itself: content, relevance and authenticity.
Factors related to the students:
Students Level. The instructor needs to be aware of the students' level and acknowledge that fact when selecting the materials for the reading class. Researchers such as Melvin and Stout, Lotherington, and Fox suggest that the educator needs to know which materials are suitable for the students' level. Gebhard asserts that the material that is selected for the ESLIEFL class should not go beyond the students ' level. Similarly, Melvin and Stout state that "the level of the students will influence the selection of material". Asking the students to read material that goes beyond their level might be counterproductive since learners may feel that they are simply incapable of reading in the target language. Some researchers have suggested that one alternative for providing the students with appropriate reading materials is simplifying the texts in order to make them accessible for the students. However, this idea has received little support from field researchers and professionals. It is better to simplify the reading process rather than the text. Instructors can provide the students with a variety of reading techniques in order to facilitate the reading comprehension process.
Students Interests. Researchers have come to the agreement that material s selected for the ESL/EFL reading class ought to satisfy students' interests. Lotherington states that no matter how difficult or easy a text might be, it would be boring or difficult to read if it is not interesting to the learner. Similarly, Fox states that the first step for material selection is "to find material that the students are likely to be interested in. Gebhard affirm that the material for the ESLIEFL class should be selected on the basis of students' interests. With the purpose of finding out students' interests the instructor should make an assessment about the students' interests and needs at the beginning of the period. Through a survey, interviews or just an informal discussion, the instructor can ask the students to suggest appropriate topics for the class.
Students Needs. There has been a great deal of agreement among researcher about the importance of considering students' needs in the material selection process for the ESL-EFL reading class. Gebhard states that the teachers should always discover the students needs before making any decisions about the course content. Similarly, Gray says that the teacher should be aware of the students' needs to be able to help them fulfill these needs by providing appropriate materials. According to Grellet, there are certain needs that all the students have in addition to their individual needs. For instance, all students need to be able to read fast, to time themselves, to know basic reading
techniques, and others. Educators must then take into account common needs as well as the individual needs in the process of material selection. The mismatch between students' expectations in regards to their needs and interests can result in students' frustration, which might imply failure on a reading course.
Students Background Knowledge is another significant criterion for selecting appropriate material for the EFL reading class is students' background knowledge. In order to provide the students with suitable material, the instructor must be familiar with the students' background knowledge. Research findings have emphasized the importance of considering this aspect in the material selection process. Smith, for example, affirms that reading cannot be separated from the readers' previous knowledge. Referring to ESL readers in particular, Lotherington-Woloszyn and Nunan agree that the lack of background knowledge may cause more difficulties for the ESL reader than language complexity does. Likewise, Fox asserts that "background knowledge is an important part of the students' ability to read and understand a particular text.
Factors related to the text:
Relevance. Choosing reading materials wisely al so implies considering the text itself. The topic, the type of text and the information it sustains make the text relevant. Students must find that the reading material used in the course is relevant for their professional lives. Richards mentions that the readings should be related to real world reading purposes. For this reason, it is necessary to involve the learners to contribute to the reading selection process. Permitting the students to contributing will certainly benefit the educator as well. Gebhard asserts that «understanding the needs of students in specific fields can provide the means through which material s can be selected and the teachers can determine how appropriate the reading materials are by considering whether they are relevant to the learner or not (Lotherington).
Content. Fox and others agree that the most important criterion for selecting reading material for the ESL class is content. They affirm that if the selected content is interesting for the students, they will be successful in the reading process no matter how difficult the text might be. When the students are required to read a complex text that is at the same time interesting for them or that refers to knowledge required in other classes, they will probably make more effort to comprehend it, and they will probably use a variety of strategies to digest it. In order to select reading material with appropriate contents, it is necessary to take the students' interests and needs into account.
Authenticity. Some researchers regard authenticity as another important criterion for the selection of readings for the ESL/EFL class. However, whether the material used for ESL/EFL classes should be authentic or not has been widely questioned by those who advocate the use of teacher-made materials. Among those who advocate the use of authentic material, Melvin and Stout state that teachers should take full advantage of the potential benefits of authentic materials. In a like manner, Gebhard points out that authenticity should be part of the criteria taken into account when selecting appropriate reading material for ESL classes. On the other hand, there are researchers and practitioners who consider that teachers should create their own reading materials or adapt existing ones. Researchers such as Lotherington- Woloszcyn and Cray justify the adaptation of reading materials in order to satisfy students' needs.