Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Common Core Disrespects Self-Selected Pleasure Reading

The Common Core Disrespects Self-Selected Pleasure Reading 
Stephen Krashen, August 13, 2013
I have seen this quote in several places:
“Students need opportunities to stretch their reading abilities but also to experience the satisfaction and pleasure of easy, fluent reading within them, both of which the Standards allow for.”   
This quote appears in "Common Core Learning Standards, Appendix A" on page 11, a section with the title "Research supporting key elements of the standards." It is typically interpreted as evidence that the common core supports free voluntary reading. 
The common core does not support free reading, but disparages it, and other discussions of free reading in common core documents confirm the disrespect the common core has for free reading.
The quote sends the message that hard reading requiring grim determination is the real stuff, the true way to "stretch reading abilities." Easier, more comprehensible reading that we actually enjoy is fine for a break, but only to experience some "satisfaction and pleasure."  
Common Core's Appendix A does not cite any of the plentiful research that strongly indicates that reading that does not require struggle is the source of nearly all of our literacy competence, that it is the bridge between "conversational" language and "academic" language.
Appendix A, along with the rest of the Language Arts standards, has very little respect for the power of reading. It assumes that grammar must be taught directly, even though many studies show that our grammatical competence is largely the result of reading, and barely acknowledges that vocabulary is the result of reading, maintaining that "direct instruction is … essential"(p. 35). (Appendix A states that "at most between 5 and 15 percent of new words encountered upon first reading are retained" (p. 34), which is slightly inaccurate: Studies actually show that when you see a new word in print, you typically pick up a small part of its meaning, about 5-15%, and as you read more, you encounter the word more and gradually acquire the meaning. What Appendix A doesn't point out are research results, including those cited in Appendix A, showing that if people read enough, 5-15% is more than enough to account for vocabulary growth.)
The common core standards do not allow “easy reading”: Appendix A insists that independent reading must remain within a certain "complexity band," or slightly above (pp. 13-14). Nothing below the readers' current official level is allowed. The Publisher's Criteria agrees: The materials available for independent reading “need to include texts at students’ own reading level as well as texts with complexity levels that will challenge and motivate students.” (Publisher's Criteria, K-3, p. 4, see also p. 14). But reading below one's current official level can be beneficial; reading level is an average – "easy" texts often contain plenty of language above one's level; easy reading provides background knowledge; easy reading can increase enthusiasm for more reading (Krashen, 2005). 
Krashen, S. “Is In-School Free Reading Good for Children? Why the National Reading Panel Report is (Still) Wrong.” Phi Delta Kappan 86.6 (2005): 444-447. (available at http://www.sdkrashen.com/index.php?cat=2)

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