The Reading Matrix
Vol. 5, No. 2, September 2005
Joshua Miekley
The checklist in this article provides educators with a valuable tool for evaluating reading
textbooks for use in ESL/EFL classrooms. Classroom teachers spend much time using
textbooks in class, so choosing an appropriate one is important. Each question in this
checklist is based on either recent research or previously developed checklists. And the
article explains how to use the checklist. Using this will make the textbook selection
process more efficient and more reliable.
While the quality of ESL reading textbooks has improved dramatically in recent
years, the process of selecting an appropriate text has not become any easier for most
teachers and administrators. Program directors and classroom teachers are under pressure
to adopt new reading textbooks on a fairly regular basis, and often on a short notice.
While publishers’ representatives may provide some informed assistance, their need to
sell new products clearly influences their recommendations. Since classroom teachers
spend a significant amount of time using ESL readers, educators will find the checklist
presented here helpful in making the evaluation process more efficient.
Traditionally, basal, or graded readers have focused on the sequential teaching of
reading skills such as phonics and decoding while being void of authentic material to be 

read for comprehension (Goodman, Freeman, & Murphy, 1988). Recently, improvements
in ESL readers allow students to read more authentic language, read for comprehension,
and think critically about reading (e.g., Interchange, Richards, & Lesley, 2000).
However, because of the vast array of textbooks to choose from, the textbook selection
process often gravitates to one of two extremes. In the process of evaluating textbooks,
some educators ask so many questions that they are never able to complete the process.
Others choose a reading textbook with little or no evaluation, yet it becomes the
centerpiece of the curriculum until another haphazardly chosen reader replaces it. This
checklist should alleviate both of those types of problems, equipping administrators and
classroom teachers with the tool necessary for making an informed evaluation of reading
textbooks, and balancing the need for thorough evaluation with the need for efficiency.
This checklist is based on recent research in second language (L2) instruction and
checklists for general textbook evaluation. For example, research shows that in addition
to teaching top-down strategies, graded readers must also provide L2 readers with
sufficient examples of these techniques and challenge learners to think critically about
what strategies they use (Moran, 1991; Auerbach & Paxton, 1997, Salataci & Akyel,
2002). This checklist was also constructed using elements of Byrd’s (2001) and Skierso’s
(1991) checklists. The most vital aspect was Byrd’s emphasis on the text being a good fit
for teachers, students, and the curriculum, all of which are important as educators seek to
use materials and methods appropriate to their particular context.
Teachers may use this checklist to make a decision between two potential reading
textbooks or a greater number. Begin by assigning a weight (M-Mandatory, O-Optional,
or N-Not applicable) to each question while keeping in mind the reader’s function in your 

classroom. This will familiarize you with the questions and assure that your bias for a
particular reader does not determine the weight of the questions. Next, peruse the reader.
Then, rate it (4-Excellent, 3-Good, ect.) for as many questions as possible. For example,
if the reader is full of activities in which students are required to think critically about
authentic texts, you could circle “4” (Excellent) for questions I.a.iii, I.a..iv, and I.c.vii
(see Checklist). If you have unanswered questions, scan the reader to find an answer.
After completing this process for all the readers you are considering, compare the
checklists to determine which reader is the most effective and the best fit for your
While this checklist is effective as is, educators should add additional questions
when appropriate. Also, remember that each context will require you to adapt the
checklist accordingly. For example, vocabulary may be a more important criterion for an
ESL teacher whose students will be taking state proficiency tests. If you are evaluating
readers for instruction at an international language school where teachers do not have
much experience in the TESL/TEFL field, questions pertaining to the teacher’s manual
should be weighted more heavily.
Since reading is so important in second language learning, we must utilize
research on L2 reading both in classroom instruction and during the process of selecting a
reading textbook, and this checklist can be a valuable asset in accomplishing that goal. 

Textbook Evaluation Checklist
I. Textbook
Totally Lacking
Not Applicable
A. Content
i. Is the subject matter presented either topically or functionally in a
logical, organized manner? (1,2,3)ii
 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
ii. Does the content serve as a window into learning about the target
language culture (American, British, ect.)? (2,18) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
iii. Are the reading selections authentic pieces of language? (5,10) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
iv. Compared to texts for native speakers, does the content contain
real-life issues that challenge the reader to think critically about
his/her worldview? (1,2,3,7,21)
4 3 2 1 0 M O N
v. Are the text selections representative of the variety of literary
genres, and do they contain multiple sentence structures? (1,13) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
 B. Vocabulary and Grammar
i. Are the grammar rules presented in a logical manner and in
increasing order of difficulty? (1,2,3) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
ii. Are the new vocabulary words presented in a variety of ways (e.g.
glosses, multi-glosses, appositives)? (2,3,12) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
iii. Are the new vocabulary words presented at an appropriate rate
so that the text is understandable and so that students are able to
retain new vocabulary? (1,2,3,5)
4 3 2 1 0 M O N
iv. Are the new vocabulary words repeated in subsequent lessons to
reinforce their meaning and use? (1,2,3,) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N

v. Are students taught top-down techniques for learning new
vocabulary words? (7,8,9,11) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
 C. Exercises and Activities
i. Are there interactive and task-based activities that require
students to use new vocabulary to communicate? (1,2,3,5) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
ii. Do instructions in the textbook tell students to read for
comprehension? (6) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
iii. Are top-down and bottom-up reading strategies used? (17) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
iv. Are students given sufficient examples to learn top-down
techniques for reading comprehension? (7,8,9,10) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
v. Do the activities facilitate students’ use of grammar rules by
creating situations in which these rules are needed? (1,2,3) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
vi. Does the text make comprehension easier by addressing one
new concept at a time instead of multiple new concepts? (2,3) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N

vii. Do the exercises promote critical thinking of the text? (2) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
 D. Attractiveness of the Text and Physical Make-up
i. Is the cover of the book appealing? (1,2,3) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
ii. Is the visual imagery of high aesthetic quality? (1,2,3,14) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
iii. Are the illustrations simple enough and close enough to the text
that they add to its meaning rather than detracting from it? (1) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N

iv. Is the text interesting enough that students will enjoy reading it?
(15) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N 

II Teacher's Manual
A. General Features
i. Does the manual help teachers understand the objectives and
methodology of the text? (1,2,3) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
ii. Are correct or suggested answers given for the exercises in the
textbook? (1,2,3,4) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
B. Background Information
i. Are teachers shown how to teach students to use cues from
morphology, cognates, rhetorical relationships, and context to assist
them in lexical inferencing? (7)
4 3 2 1 0 M O N
ii. Is there a list of true and false cognates for vocabulary words?
(1,2,3) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
C. Methodological Guidance
i. Are teachers given techniques for activating students’ background
knowledge before reading the text? (8,9,22) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
ii. Are teachers given adequate examples for teaching students to
preview, skim, scan, summarize, and to find the main idea? (8,11,6) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
iii. Does the manual suggest a clear, concise method for teaching
each lesson? (1,2,3) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
D. Supplementary Exercises and Materials
i. Does the manual give instructions on how to incorporate audiovisual
material produced for the textbook? (2) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
ii. Does the manual provide teachers with exercises to practice, test,
and review vocabulary words? (1,2,3) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
iii. Does the manual provide additional exercises for reinforcing
grammar points in the text? (1,2,3) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
III. Context
A. Is the textbook appropriate for the curriculum? (1,2,19,20) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
 i. Does the text coincide with the course goals? (1,2,3,19,20) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
B. Is the textbook appropriate for the students who will be using it? (1,2) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
i. Is the text free of material that might be offensive? (1,6,16) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
ii. Are the examples and explanations understandable? (1) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
iii. Will students enjoy reading the text selections? (1,2,3,15) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
iv. Will the content meet students’ felt needs for learning English or
can it be adapted for this purpose? (2,3) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
C. Are the textbook and teacher’s manual appropriate for the
 teacher who will be teaching from them? (1,2,4) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N
 i. Is the teacher proficient enough in English to use the teacher’s
manual? (1) 4 3 2 1 0 M O N 

1. Byrd, 2001
2. Skierso, 1991
3. Daoud & Celce-Murcia, 1979
4. Sheldon, 1988
5. Hu & Nation, 2000
6. Wixton, 1989
7. Moran, 1991
8. Auerbach & Paxton, 1997
9. Lee, 2003
10. Lynch, 2001
11. Salataci & Akyel, 2002
12. Watanabe, 1997
13. Blohm, 1981
14. Newman, 1996
15. Krashen, 1997
16. Sharifan, 1999
17. Eskey & Grabe,1988
18. Kramsch, 1993
19. Fishman, 2003
20. Graves, 1996
21. Goodman, Shannon, Freeman, & Murphy, 1988
22. Monahan & Hinson,1988
Auerbach, E.R. & Paxton, D. (1997). “It’s not the English thing”: Bringing reading
research into the ESL classroom. TESOL Quarterly, 31(2), 237-261.
Blohm, P.J. (1981 April). Choosing a text for the college methods course in reading.
Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the International Reading Association,
New Orleans, LA.
Byrd, P. (2001). Textbooks: Evaluation and selection and analysis for
implementation. In Celce-Murcia, M. (Ed.) Teaching English as a second or
foreign language, 3rd ed. Boston: Heinle & Heinle. 

Daoud, A.M. & Celce-Murcia, M. (1979). Selecting and evaluating textbooks. In
Celce-Murcia, M. & McIntosh, L. (Eds.) Teaching English as a second or foreign
language. New York: Newbury House.
Eskey, D.E. & Grabe, W. (1988). Interactive models for second language reading:
Perspectives on instruction. In Carrell, P, Devine, J., & Eskey, D. (Eds.)
Interactive approaches to second language reading. Cambridge University
Goodman, K., Shannon, P., Freeman, Y. & Murphy, S. (1988). Report Card on
Basal Readers. Katonah, New York: Richard C. Owen Publishers.
Graves, K. (1996). Teachers as course developers. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Hu, H.M., & Nation, P. (2000). Unknown vocabulary density and reading
comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 13, 403-430.
Kramsch, C. (1993). Context and culture in language teaching. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Krashen, S. (1997). Does free voluntary reading lead to academic language? Journal
of intensive English studies, 11, 1-18.
Lee, J.F. & VanPatten, B. (2003). Making communicative language teaching
happen. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Lynch, T. (2001). Communication in the language classroom. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Monahan, J. & Hinson, B. (1988). New directions in reading instruction.
International Reading Association. 

Moran, C. (1991). Lexical inferencing in EFL reading coursebooks: Some
implications of research. System, 19(4), 389-400.
Newman, M. & Pujol, M. (1996). Towards an ESOL literature. Teaching English as
a second of foreign language. Retrieved on February 14, 2005, from

Richards, J.C. & Lesley, T. (2000). New interchange: English for international
communication. Cambridge University Press.
Salataci, R. & Akyel, A. (2002). Possible effects of strategy instruction on L1 and
L2 reading. Reading in a Foreign Language, 14(1), 1-17.
Sharifan, F. (1999). The impact of macro-cultures and micro-cultures on ELT theory
and practice. Applied Language and Literacy Research (E-Journal), 1, 4.
Retrieved on January 28, 2005, from
Sheldon, L.E. (1988). Evaluating ELT textbooks and materials. English Language
Teaching Journal, 42(4), 237-246.
Skierso, A. (1991). Textbook selection and evaluation. In Celce-Murcia, M. (Ed.)
Teaching English as a second or foreign language. Boston: Heinle &
Watanabe, Y. (1997). Input, intake, and retention: Effects of increased processing
on incidental learning of foreign language vocabulary. Second Language
Acquisition, 19, 287-307.
Wixton, K.K. & Peters, C.W. (1989). Teaching the basal selection. In Winograd, 

P.N., Wixson, K.K., & Lipson, M.Y. (Eds.), Improving basal reading instruction
(pp. 21-61). New York: Teachers College Press.

 If you have difficulty comparing two readers, you may multiply the ratings for questions weighted
“Mandatory” by 2 and the ratings for questions weighted “Optional” by 1. Add up the points for all
questions and compare with the other reader you’re considering.
ii These numbers correspond to numbers at the end of checklist, which contain the references which were
used in developing each question.
Joshua Miekley is currently finishing a M.Ed. in Literacy with a concentration in TESL at
the University of Cincinnati. While instructing as a Teaching Assistant at the Center for
English as a Second Language at the University of Cincinnati, he has taught courses in
Pronunciation, Oral Presentation Skills, and Writing.