Monday, July 13, 2015

Libraries: Not just access to digital technology

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S. Krashen
Ben Lee argues convincingly that "Public libraries play a central role in providing access to data and ensuring the freedom of digital knowledge."
But we should not devalue "reading for the sake of reading."  There is substantial research showing that voluntary "pleasure reading" makes a profound contribution both to literacy development and to our knowledge of the world. 
Study after study shows that those who engage in free voluntary reading read better, write better, spell better, have larger vocabularies, and better control of complex grammatical structures.  I reviewed this research in Krashen (2004), and a recent study by Sullivan and Brown (2014), who reported that the amount of reading done at age 42 is a clear predictor of vocabulary test scores. Sullivan and Brown also reported that reading high quality fiction was a very strong predictor of vocabulary knowledge, and reading "middle brow" fiction was also a good predictor, confirming the value of fiction.
Studies by Stanovich and colleagues (reviewed in Krashen, 2004) show that those who read more know more about literature and history and have more "cultural literacy." This is no surprise, but readers also know more about science and even have more “practical knowledge."
Lee points out that those living in poverty have little access to digital resources. The same, of course, is true of access to pleasure reading material.

Krashen, S. (2004). The power of reading. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann and Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited (second edition).
Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. (2014). Vocabulary from adolescence to middle age. London: Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London.

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