Friday, April 24, 2015

Reading for Pleasure Can Close 'Vocabulary Gap' at Any Age

Published in Education Week, May 13, 2015

Children of poverty clearly have slower vocabulary development, and this appears to be related not only to the quantity but also the quality of their interaction with parents ("Research on Quality of Conversation Holds Deeper Clues Into Word Gap," April 22, 2015).
   Rather than intervene and give parents "conversation training," as is described in your article, we might consider simpler solutions.
   First, despite the fact that Susan Neuman, a New York University professor of education and department chair, has misgivings about read-alouds, there is substantial evidence that even a modest effort to provide books and basic guidance in read-alouds has a substantial effect on vocabulary growth. Especially interesting are a series of studies using the methods undertaken by the literacy nonprofit group Reach Out and Read, in which books and guidance are provided during well-child clinic visits.
   Second, we can encourage self-selected free voluntary reading as soon as children can read independently. A recent study by Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown of the Center for Longitudinal Studies at the University of London confirmed that we can increase our vocabulary by reading at any age: The impact of reading on vocabulary development in older readers is independent of the level of poverty of their parents.
   So-called "late intervention" is powerful. A child of poverty who becomes a dedicated pleasure reader will rapidly close not only the vocabulary gap, but the literacy gap in general.
Stephen Krashen

original article:

This letter posted at:

some sources (not included in published letter):
Krashen, S. & McQuillan, J. 2007. Late intervention. Educational Leadership 65 (2): 68-73.
Krashen, S. 2011. Reach out and read (aloud). Language Magazine 10  (12): 17-19.
Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. 2014. Vocabulary from adolescence to middle-age. Centre for Longitudinal Studies
Institute of Education, University of London.
Trelease, J. 2013. The Read-Aloud Handbook. New York: Penguin. Seventh edition.


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