Books are Enough

The Power of Free, Self-Selected Reading

States Like Florida- kill readers and writers with one stone

I wanted to reprint this rejoinder sent to “The Atlantic” by Dr. Krashen. I am amazed at how states are simply teaching students how to “write” to pass a test. This is disgusting. Students are lucky if they have teachers who simply ignore the garbage from states and districts who prescribe mind-numbing practices that crush students. State “writing” tests and even the essays on the SAT or ACT are ridiculous.

Stephen Krashen
Recipes or Libraries? Submitted to The
Atlantic
, September 21, 2012

“The writing revolution” (October, 2012) does not mention the massive research showing that writing style is the result of extensive reading. The best that direct instruction in writing style can do is what it did at New Dorp: Provide students with what is described as a recipe, a “rigid, unswerving formula.”

Recipes will help writers pass tests, but will not deliver what extensive reading will deliver: Those who read more have larger vocabularies, the ability to use complex grammatical constructions, better spelling, and, of course, write better. Research done over the last 100 years has confirmed that only a small percentage of this kind of competence can be taught explicitly: The systems are too large and complex.

In fact, many aspects of good writing have not yet been described by linguists. They can only be absorbed, or “acquired” through reading.

Also, reading gives students benefits that direct instruction will not: Those who read more know more about a wide variety of subjects.

The students at New Dorp are described as being from poor and working-class families. Study after study has shown that such students have little access to reading material in their schools, communities or at home. A determined effort to improve school and public libraries for these students will solve the writing problem permanently, a suggestion supporting by a number of studies showing that library quality and staffing is related higher literacy development.

Sources:

Reading and vocabulary, grammar, spelling, writing style:
McQuillan, J. 1998. The literacy crisis: False claims and real solutions. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heineman and Libraries Unlimited.
Krashen, S 2011. Free Voluntary Reading. Libraries Unlimited.
Lee, S. Y. 2005. Facilitating and inhibiting factors on EFL writing: A model testing with SEM. Language Learning 55 (2), 335-374.

Reading and knowledge:
e.g. Stanovich, K., West, R., and Harrison, M. 1995. Knowledge growth and maintenance across the life span: The role of print exposure. Developmental Psychology 31 (5): 811- 826.

Poverty and access to books:
Allington, R., S. Guice, K. Baker, N. Michaelson, and S. Li. 1995. Access to books: Variations in schools and classrooms. The Language and Literacy
Spectrum 5: 23-25.
Neuman, S., and D. Celano. 2001. Access to print in low-income and middle income communities. Reading Research Quarterly 36(1): 8-26.

Libraries and literacy development:
eg. Lance, K. (2004). The impact of school library media centers on academic achievement. In C. Kuhlthau (Ed.), School Library Media Annual (pp. 188-197). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.
Krashen,S., Lee, SY., and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1): 26-36.

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