Saturday, December 24, 2016

Literacy: The problem is not professional development. The problem is poverty and lack of access to books.

Sent to the Washington Post, Dec. 23.

As Ellen O'Neill notes in her letter (December 23, 2016), professional development for teachers is important for literacy development.  But there is no crisis in professional development: The problem is poverty. 
The poverty rate for public school students in the District of Colombia is among the highest in the country; this means few books in the home and few bookstores. As noted previously in the Post (March 9, 2015), DC's school libraries serving at-risk students suffer from a shortage of books and have few credential librarians. Clearly, many children in DC have very little access to reading material.
More access to books results in more reading, which in turn means better reading achievement.
The best professional development in the world will be worthless if students have little or nothing to read.

Stephen Krashen

Ellen 0'Neill: Give teachers more training to improve students’ reading proficiency, Washington Post, Dec 23, 2016.

DC Poverty rate:;
Poverty and access to books: Smith, C. , Constantino, R.  and Krashen, S. 1997. Differences in print environment for children in Beverly Hills, Compton and Watts. Emergency Librarian 24,4:4-5; Neuman, S. & Celano, D. (2001). Access to print in low-income and middle- income communities. Reading Research Quarterly, 36(1), 8-26. 
Given access, children read: Lindsay, J. 2010. Children's Access to Print Material and Education-Related Outcomes: Findings from a Meta-Analytic Review. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates.
Noted previously in the Post: Unequal shelves in D.C. school libraries benefit wealthier students, Washington Post, March 9, 2015:
More access > more reading > better reading achievement: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Libraries Unlimited.

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