Books are Enough

The Power of Free, Self-Selected Reading

Florida Malpractice, AGAIN

The Gainesville Sun recently published an article called “Schools go to overtime to improve reading scores.”  This article exposes the malpractice going on from the legislature, DOE, districts and schools- all determined to kill the love of reading.

The Florida legislature mandated an extra hour of reading instruction for the lowest 100 elementary schools – based on FCAT reading scores.

This sounds good, right? Well, what do we know?

1. The 100 lowest schools have one thing in common- massive poverty

2. Kids in poverty lack the access to books they need to develop into book-loving citizens

3. One reason why these schools are so low is because the kids have been subjected to skill-drill-kill and not being allowed to READ

4. Now, they are getting another hour of skill-drill-kill

5. These kids should be reading what they want, discussing books with peers and teachers and learning to love reading

6. Kids who read a lot and become avid readers at an early age, rarely need any remediation later

7. Vocabulary, writing, thinking, fluency – all improve through a lot of reading (as does overall academic performance)

The kids in these schools enter the system with the disadvantage of not having access to books or the time to read them. Why are schools reinforcing this?  Schools that enable the vicious cycle of “book poverty” are doing more harm than can be imagined.

An hour of FREE reading would be the way to go.  There should be no papers to fill out or charts to look at. There should be no practice tests or word lists. We need to let these kids develop into book-loving citizens. Good test scores are an added positive result if we do this.

If students have access to good books they will read! Why the hell are we forcing kids to do FCAT test prep and boring worksheets? Leading reading-researcher Richard Allington points out that kids need a lot of comprehensible, self-selected text. Kids should also spend at least 60 minutes of each 90 minute literacy block actually READING what they want. One book that summarizes the massive research on the power of reading is “Free Voluntary Reading” by Dr. Stephen Krashen. Too bad the legislature, DOE, districts and schools are unaware of the overwhelming evidence.

Let me run a free reading program with ANY district and I will get these kids reading – growing into proficient readers for LIFE. That is the goal.  Our only goal is to help kids become lifelong readers. Anything else, including common core, is malpractice.

PS: Is this law silly?  There will always be a lowest 100 schools.

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