Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

The Power of Reading by Dr Stephen Krashen

“The Power of Reading”
A presentation at Encyclo-Media 2006, Oklahoma City, OK
31 August 2006

Preliminary comments by Dr. Sandi Garrett, state superintendent of education in Oklahoma
State is sending centennial patches and pins to wear on school uniforms
Are going to create a clearinghouse of ideas for the centennial (state dept of education will)
Our state reading scores were up in every grade, 3-8
Annual Oklahoma Celebration of Reading: Friday, April 27th at Lloyd Noble Arena on OU Campus
ACE: Governor’s initiative to have 7 end of course exams (all students are in the college prep curriculum unless they opt out of it)

Dr Stephen Krashen (Professor Emeritus)
University of Southern California


The literacy crisis

The overwhelming case for FVR
1.Hooked on Books!
2.The Cho studies
3.Sustained silent reading and other in-class reading methods

The Fiji Island study (RRQ, 1983)
gains (months) in reading comprehension
grade audio-lingual sustained silent reading shared reading
4 6.5 15 15
5 2.5 9 15

year 2: larger differences, readers better in writing, listening and grammar

Goosebumps Summer (Shin, F. (2001). Motivating students with Goosebumps and other popular books. CSLA Journal (California School Library Association), 25(1), 15-19.)

The Sai Rishu Study (Beniko Mason, Osaka): “retaker” take to self-selecting reading in EFL
The TOEFL Study (Beniko Mason, Int J FL Teaching)
The new wave of studies from Korea (KS Cho), Taiwan (SY Lee, CK Liu)

Encouraging SSR
rewards and incentives (McQuillan, 1997, Krashen, 2003)
reading itself and “home run books”
light reading – a BRIDGE
access and the importance of libraries

Better libraries –> better reading (Lance, McQuillan, Krashen)
The effect of poverty: Susan B. Neuman
California’s reading scores

Stats comparisons in books per student, school librarians, and school library expenditures


The literacy crisis begain in 1989 on the Oprah Winfrey show
surely Oprah’s intentions were good with the program
had adults on the show who never learned to read, they are now CEOs and have coping strategies
Then there was a made for TV movie about adult illiteracy
Then a movie
Now newspapers telling us that thousands of kids are being turned out

If you look at the research on literacy in America, it has been on a steady increase

Until recently I thought PPT was a martial art
I’ve learned that by the time you learn to use it, it is obsolute

Our country is now 99% literate
it is very hard to find anyone who has been to our schools that can’t
there is a problem, it is just not the problem

The demands for literacy have been increasing faster than
look at automechanics as an example
effort in literacy is now the K-2 situation, the K-3 level
everyone who goes to school gets to the next level at 3rd or 4th grade level
kids do it at different rates, that leads to confusion

The way to get people to 10th, 11th, and 12th grade levels is the challenge

The ONE activity that we can do that really helps this
the kind that re
Free, Voluntary Reading (reading because you want to)
that is the kind of reading we do all the time

If kids start to read, they will have a chance, if they don’t start they won’t have a chance

My message is going to be let’s chill out
our FVR is the basis of all kinds of important things
I will take these research examples from VERY different sources

Start of parade of studies
published 3 papers based on Cho’s dissertation
kids in Korea had studied grammar, grammar, grammar for years

Had them read “Sweet Valley High” books
started the students in teen romance / adolescent fiction
written at 5th and 6th grade level
that is good, because bestsellers are written at the 7th grade level

What she didn’t do
pre-teach the vocabulary
instead she gave them something easier
“Sweet Valley Twins” written at the 4th grade level
Then tried “Sweet Valley Kids” at 2nd grade level
did not force the South Korean women to read this
After 1 year, one of the women had never read for pleasure in English

Barbara Kartlin is the only living person who wrote more books than she read

These students had wonderful vocabulary growth, her friends said their reading were improving

Now we get to the meatier study, better scientifically controlled
there is a lot at stake here
this is a very serious issue
we need to

SSR: sustained silent reading
some of us remember USSR (uninterrupted sustained silent reading)
children read whatever they want in SSR
I think the Harry Potter books on audio are even
I love Gilderoy Lockheart
Deloris Umbridge is now working for the US Dept of Education in Washington!
The teacher gets to read whatever she wants

If you do 10 min of SSR with your students over a career of teaching, that

While one group does SSR, the other group does “skill-building”
skill building is what the gov’t and McGraw Hill wants you to do
have found about 60 studies where one group does SSR and another group does skill-building
most negative result is: NO DIFFERENCE
For many of the studies that find no difference, nearly all of them are short term (like 2 months or 10 weeks)
We know as teachers that for the first
The studies that last longer than an academic year are consistently positive
this is one of the

The national reading panel report in 2000
600 pages
only 6 pages was dedicated to recreational reading
Their conclusion: “we are not sure that having students read recreationally
I found 60 studies, they found 14
They found SSR better in 4 cases, 10 no differences and 0 cases of SSR

They missed most of the studies, only looked at short term studies, missed second lan

Is an article on this I published in 2001 in Phi Kappa Delta (an academic’s dream, where the footnotes are longer than the article)

I have been told that money is being diverted from libraries and SSR because of these studies
bit study they should not have ignored: 1965 study by Daniel Fader, “Hooked On Books”
worked with juvenile delinquent boys ages 12+, in reform schools
boys got very excited about reading
reading scores improved across the board: attitude toward school, etc
Fader was smart enough to look at more than test scores: watched and looked at boys’ behavior
We’ve known about this since 1965!!!

I’ve come to the conclusion that part of my role is to become a public relations agent for Warick Elley
retired full professor from New Zealand
very respected in the field of reading
in 1983, published in “Reading Research Quarterly” that is one of the single most important
this is the #1 snob journal in reading
done on the Fiji Islands, where English is taught as a foreign language starting in kindergarten for 30 min per day

Divided kids into three groups:
1- group 1: audio-lingual (everything that is wrong and messed up with language instruction)
2- group 2: sustained silent reading
3- group 3: shared reading (Big Books)

We expect native speakers to gain 10 months in a year

The readers were much better, far better

Replicated this in Singapore
published in “Language Learning” journal
very similar results

Nice think about the article: has very good descriptions of what the concerns of the adults were
how will they do on the tests?
They do great on the tests!
Why do they do so good on the tests? Because they can’t help it!
All the conventions of writing become part of you, you have no choice but to do well on tests, to write correctly

You cannot write poorly, you don’t even know how– the only way you can write poorly if you’ve just read a pile of student papers

Let’s go to other areas of the world
now go to California to San Juaquin Valley
study by Faye Shin
voluntary summer program, just about perfect program
emphasis on reading comic books and Goosebumps
children of poverty who don’t have access to books
40 min per day browsing in the library
2 hours of reading

We go to Barnes and Noble, spend 2 hours and come out with 2 magazines and 1 book, and feel like our time has been well spent
we send kids to the library and require them to get their book in 10 minutes

HUGELY better gains in this study for kids in the experimental group

Now let’s look at Sai Rishu Study
she was given all the problem students
called “retakers” for English class in Japanese schools
she realized after 10 minutes that the regular curriculum wouldn’t work
so she threw it out, and brought in an “extensive reading” curriculum
test scores at end of the year: kids nearly caught up with the regular students

Summary of what I’ve said so far: this stuff works
it works around the world, for children, for teenagers, for adults

in subsequent talks I’ll be talking about

1 more advantage to reading
study by Victor Nell, wrote “Lost in a Book” study
had people come to his laboratory who were known to be highly dedicated pleasure readers, about 26 of them
measured “arousal” by heartbeat, things used in lie detector tests
got baseline data
arousal rate went up during reading, after stopping and putting down boo

If you want to encourage your kids to read, get a lamp by the side of their bed
if there is a lamp beside a child’s bed, you can be pretty sure they are on their way to becoming better readers


If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes’ free newsletter. Check out Wes’ video tutorial library, “Playing with Media.” Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on

On this day..







5 responses to “The Power of Reading by Dr Stephen Krashen”

  1. Christopher Harris Avatar

    Thanks for sharing, Wesley! I would love to hear Krashen speak at some point. What you shared here is the arguement that we need to be advancing for blogs in schools. Not only is that Free Voluntary Reading (FVR), but it also encourages Free Voluntary Writing (FVW). After all, FVR and FVW are pretty much the foundation of social software! It’s not about the technology, it’s about the reading.

    The sad thing is that Krashen is right about libraries getting left out of the conversation. “Reading teachers” have taken over reading and are trying to make it into this cold, hard, science that pushes the one true method. There is no one method. The only activity that research consistently shows increases reading ability is reading itself. So what do we do? Cut funding to libraries, remove the choice of reading materials, and give struggling students “leveled readers.” And don’t get me started on technology people who want to take over blogs as being a technology and then screw everything up by focusing on the technology and playing right into the fears of anyone who has seen Dateline NBC recently.

    Teachers need to take back the curriculum, but librarians need to stand up and take back reading, literacy, and the appropriate use of available media, technology, and information resources.

  2. […] Basic solutions. One might even say, “simple solutions.” Find creative ways to get kids to LOVE reading and spend time reading. As Dr. Krashen said, we need more credentialed librarians and teachers helping kids find the “home run book” that really “hooks” them into a lifetime of reading. Given access to engaging texts, kids as well as adults WILL read. The research Dr. Krashen shares demonstrates this persuasively. A big problem, however, is that in schools both teachers and administrators are so busy being stressed about summative assessments that they don’t feel the kids have TIME to read. And that, my friends, is a crime that must stop. […]

  3. Almost American Avatar

    This makes me feel really good about my daughter’s second grade class. The teacher has a large library of books in the classroom. (Her own books I’m sure, not purchased by the school, as they all have her name on them.) She encourages the kids to borrow a book a night in addition to the 2 books a week they are allowed to have from the school library. She wants parents to let her know every Friday how much time their kids have spent reading at home each day over the course of the previous week. She let us know that she expects it to be at least 15 minutes/day and that it counts as ‘homework’.

    In our family it is not a problem getting the kids to read – the 3 year old insists on ‘reading’ himself to sleep and the second grader will read for a couple of hours before falling asleep if we let her. I wonder how this teacher’s method works with kids who do not have family encouraging them to read at home though?

  4. […] AR is ALL ABOUT extrinsic rewards for reading, unfortunately. Instead of digressing further from my original blog post here, I’ll direct you to my notes from Dr. Krashen’s keynotes at Encylo-Media in Oklahoma City two weeks ago. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and the podcast of Part 3.) […]

  5. […] In education usually feel “we have no time to lose”– and of course TIME is the most pressing issue for everyone. To the extent our children are in school NOW and need great teachers and great learning environments TODAY, and can’t wait several years for the politics of this to get worked out, this perception is accurate. It is NOT accurate that we need teachers and students so stressed-out and time-pressured that they don’t have time for project-based learning, free voluntary reading, and authentic dialog about the challenges and opportunities in their own lives, however. Instruction DOES need to change, but high-stakes accountability has taken us backwards rather than forwards. […]