Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

Encouraging Reading by Stephen Krashen

Encouraging Reading by Stephen Krashen

A presentation at Encyclo-Media 2006, Oklahoma City, OK
01 September 2006

Dr Stephen Krashen (Professor Emeritus)
University of Southern California

It is now a federal law that there has to be a Starbucks every ¾ of a mile
coffee is good for you
rationalizations we live by
go to the website of the National Coffee Association
coffee is our major source of anti-oxidants, if it is FRESH
it prevents tooth decay, protects the liver, protects against Alshiemers and possibly dementia
for women, it seems to prevent cardo-vascular disease

I have now decided “The National Reading Association” should be renamed “The National Anti-Reading Association”
you are going to hear a lot of things from the National Reading Association
it is just the current president
the former president of the Associaton was “one of us”

My topic today is the 2nd half of the outline: “If reading is so good for you, how do you get kids to read”
I’ve, book “punishment by rewards” – has a new book
discusses the pizza for reading idea
his friend responds: if you get that all you get are lots of fat kids that can’t read

I was asked to do a review of Accelerated Reader by a friend
we used to call ERIC “Eric the unread!”
I downloaded the papers on the AR reader website, unpublished dissertations, everything I could find
to understand my position on AR, I need to list 4 characteristics of the programs:

1- you have to get books
2- time: they recommend 60 minutes a day of reading (that is a LOT of reading)
3- the tests
4- the prizes

based on what I said yesterday, what of the 4 characteristics actually work? 1 and 2! so if you want to
instead they compare AR to doing nothing
same thing as a new drug that is sugar and zoloft
things don’t always get better with AR

my review is online on my website
my conservative conclusion is: we don’t know
my conservative suggestion is: if you have a few thousand dollars, spend it on books for the library
my guess is that it might be harmful
this program gives you a reward for something that is already pleasant
an extrinsic reward for something that is intrinsically rewarding
by rewarding something that is intrinsically rewarding you might extinguish the behavior

Title of one paper: “turning play into work”
this is really what we are doing with AR
experiments involved very naturally engaging toys

Alfie has replicated this on the Oprah Winfield show
the message sent by AR is that no one would do that
it is a reasonable conjecture that over the long term, this may be sending the wrong message

Most obvious way to encourage reading: SSR
1975 published in “Irish Journal of Education” looking at boys in SSR programs in elementary schools
six years later the kids in the free reading programs in elementary school were still reading more than others
Jim Trelease, author of “The Read Aloud Handbook” is his website, it is VERY good
the “Home run book” – sometimes just one good experience can hook someone

in study, 50-80% of kids could name their “home run book”


When we looked at the list of books the kids loved, they were not the Caldecott and Newberry award winners, we find that the “home run books” for kids are not on these lists


Comic book reading is the kind of reading that schools try to pretend doesn’t exist

I don’t think everyone has to read comic books, but so many of us did become readers through comic book readers
I have a debt to comics that I am still
comics are variable: they vary in range from 2nd grade up to superheroes which can hit 5th – 7th grade
Something that is 6th is going to have pockets if 8th and 9th
When you do readability formulas, you do the Fry formula and take random samples
I selected these not randomly, but because they were hard

The leader of the Fantastic Four is a mad scientist

If you are looking for high interest, low vocabularly reading, you can’t do better than the comic “Archie”
it deals with teenagers, and it is written at the 2nd grade level
and there are lots of used Archie magazines
Kids DO go beyond comic books to other reading
looking at comic book readers who were boys
comics don’t prevent reading, it is a conduit to MORE reading
you can utilize comics in this way

Study: Spiderman in the Library
library traffic nearly doubled, and non-comic

personal story
when I was in the 2nd grade, I was in the low reading group
I was a bluebird
my dad brought home comic books
within a month I was an Oriole

I believe in SSR and literature
reading programs work better when kids are doing more

Trelease: I give him the credit for the boom in read-alouds today
I think that is basically because of the “Read Aloud Handbook”
at 1 am in Orlando between drink 7 and 8, he was going on and on about some 4th grader in Nebraska who got all excited when he heard “Where The Red Fern Grows” read aloud
research says that kids who are read to regularly at home do better on EVERY test
the research profession is supportive of read alouds, the National Reading Panel

My mother picked up a copy of the “Read Aloud Handbook” and asked why I can’t write like this!

Frank Smith who is always right in my opinion says when kids are read aloud, they get a better understanding of story grammar, most important they get VERY excited about books
if you’ve ever worked in elementary school or been to elementary school
when the
kids read Charlotte’s Web

These are all just warm ups to THE BIG FACTOR: Access to books
this is the big one
this is the elephant in the living room
eventually all horses drink
all kids do read, just sometimes (or often) not when we want them
when kids have a quiet, comfortable place to read
For kids today, these 2 conditions are rarely met
1- access to books
2- comfortable and quiet environment

This has GOT to happen in school
in every school there is a room where these conditions are met
it is the school library
a good school library makes things possible
without it you go nowhere!!!
I say this in all my talks, wherever I go

School library research is now the hottest area
we get the most payoffs
most outstanding results: kids get their books to libraries
2: the better the school library, the higher the reading scores

Keith Curry Lance: google him to find his website from Colorado, lots of good studies
he works for the DOE in Colorado
in early 80s he was asked this question: is literacy a question we should throw money at? The answer is yes, but we need to aim carefully
money put into the library, that relates to reading scores controlling for all other factors
3 independent predicators:

1- presence of a credentialed librarian
2- help for the librarian
3- books

in texas, study found 50% of what a librarian does can be done by anyone
if you get help for the librarian, then you double the efficiency of the librarian

Librarians having TIME is so key
librarians need to have time to work with reluctant readers who come into the library

don’t worry about statistics, if you had a tough time in the class it wasn’t your fault!!!

“The Literacy Crisis: False claims….” by Jeff….
combined factors: books in the school, books in the home, books in the public library
by combining these factors, he could predict

On the issue of poverty: research is very powerful
the impact of poverty: it drenches and overwhelmes all the other variables in the research
15 years ago we published in “Emergence Librarians” we looked at the extremes: Beverly Hills and Watts
we asked a group of children: how many books they had in their home that they could read
Beverly Hills: kids had access to 200 books at home
In Watts: 0.4
School is NOT leveling the playing field
looked at classroom libraries
Susan Newman did a great study, looking at high income and low income neighborhoods: in high income the libraries where much better stocked and staffed by credentialed librarians, open lots of time, lots of bookstores, kids were literally deluged with books
not in the poor neighborhoods
difference between rich and poor was overwhelming
you can’t tell me that what children of poverty need are more phonics

I little of phonics can be helpful, but when it goes over the top it is damaging

Analogy: go to a country where there is famine, the crops have failed for years, kids show malnutrition, experts say that these kids need a painful operation on their intestines
no one would go with that
of course what these kids really need is FOOD
same thing in literacy: kids need books
that is not even on the drawing board for the federal government
The Laura Bush library initiative has more spent on PR and security than on the actual books themselves

Now turning to what is happening in California
put in terms of an urban legend
as you have heard it (not as it is)
the whole language urban legend

Look in Jeff McQuillian’s book, the results are there
test scores were low in California years before the committee met in 1987

there has been no change in NAPE scores in California
you don’t hear anything about that in the press
McQuillan’s spin on this
if it is not lack of phonics, what is it?
Let’s look at access to print


Dr Kashen responded to this and said no, the danger is that Gates would dictate curriculum, Bill Gates is the defacto superintendent of schools in the U.S. now
Survey: America’s most literate cities, last one looked at 69 cities with populations over 250K
public library quality was a factor
California got the last 4
California got 7 out of the bottom 10

McQuillian’s conclusion: every source of books are getting worse in CA, but scores have not declined
so this means that teachers are buying these books
this is like soldiers buying their own books

So conclusons
we are not going to get more money from our state legislatures
2 suggestions: we should cut back on technology, we need to re-evaluate our stance on them
the data is not there: there is a little on data on blogs and reading
most of what we have: there is no impact on reading
for the price of one computer: think about how many books you can put in a school library

2- we need to cut back on testing
none of us area against assessment
we are not anti-testing, or anti-assessment
we are against inappropriate and excessive testing
every moment spent on testing that is not needed is a moment stolen from the lives of our children


I have heard Frank Smith talk on this, old Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney shows: I know what we’ll do, we’ll put on a show! This is what is being said in education: let’s give another test! is one website to know about (not “no test” it is fair test)

second one is my favorite website:
book of book “What Ever Happened to Recess”
I regard her website as the center of gravity for those who think differently about
her husband is a physics prof and writer

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6 responses to “Encouraging Reading by Stephen Krashen”

  1. Miguel Guhlin Avatar

    this is great! I’ve always wanted to hear him speak but never had the opportunity. Thanks to your podcast of the talk, I’ll be able to realize my dream.

    Thank you, Wes!!

    Tears trickling down my cheeks,

  2. Dean Shareski Avatar

    I’m sure the podcast will clarify but I’m wondering about your thoughts on his statement regarding technology spending and data regarding blogs. My initial thought is that the lack of data is either not available but also irrelevant in terms of its impact on reading. The intent of blogs isn’t necessarily to improve reading, it may be a by-product but their intent is to connect and build ideas.

    Anyways, I hope you can clarify this point…other than that he sounds like he’s got some great things to consider.

  3. […] I’m sure I’m not the only one that sees a hole in the logic here. I know Dean Shareski for one is questioning the reasoning (note his comment on Wes’s post). My short version response is: […]

  4. Anthony Avatar

    I am curious to see what would happen to student achievement if we divert more money from assessment products and into tools that students would appreciate using more. How about more tools that are similar to video games?

  5. Wesley Fryer Avatar

    I think you are both correct, Dean and Brian– the experiential and anecdotal evidence seems to be in on blogs and students reading on the web. Kids read more, they read better. Same for writing. I think Dr. Krashen, as he said in an earlier presentation, is “bound by the evidence” to a degree and doesn’t see that research yet on student blogging. This makes a compelling case for action research relating to blogging in the classroom!

    Anthony, I think your suggestion is an interesting one. Unfortunately most schools seem pretty tied to traditional ways of doing things, and suggesting a curriculum based on videogames would be received about like a suggestion like “let’s turn off the bells and stop changing classes every 50 minutes” in a high school. Marc Prensky, author of Don’t Bother Me Mom, I’m Learning is one author that definitely shares your perspectives on the potential value of video games in education. Sadly I don’t think many administrators and teachers are seriously listening and implementing Prensky’s ideas.

  6. […] Dr. Krashen shared his opinion at the end of his 3rd presentation last week (which is available as a podcast) that we should spend more on school libraries, and less on technology. Both Brian Crosby and Darren Kuropatwa responded to this, and I agree with their sentiments. I think that: […]