Sent to the Edmonton Journal, Dec 22, 2017
Re: "A quarter of Edmonton public elementary students read below grade level" (Dec. 20).
Edmonton shouldn’t panic because 27% of students read below grade level. “Grade level” means average (median); we would expect 50% of the students to be below grade level. If only 27% of read below grade level, Edmonton schools are doing well.
A consultant has advised Edmonton that the cure for this non-problem is instruction in “phonemic awareness,” in breaking words into their sounds. Research shows that phonemic awareness training does not lead to better reading; it leads only to improvement on phonemic awareness tests.
If Edmonton had a reading problem, the first step would be to invest more in school libraries. Studies show that quality libraries with credentialed librarians contribute to reading achievement. The best predictor of high scores on tests of reading comprehension is the amount of self-selected reading students do. Libraries are an important source of reading material. For children of poverty, they are often the only source.
Phonemic awareness training: Krashen, S. 2001. Does “pure” phonemic awareness training affect reading comprehension? Perceptual and Motor Skills 93: 356-358.
Impact of libraries, librarians: Krashen, S., Lee, SY. and McQuillan, J. (2012). Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1), 26-36. Keith Curry Lance, studies at http://www.lrs.org/impact.php.
Poverty: Neuman, S., and D. Celano. 2001. Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities. Reading Research Quarterly 36(1): 8-26.