Friday, April 28, 2017

Support for in-school independent reading

Sent to Education Week,  April 29, 2017

It is satisfying to know that 94% of the teachers and principals interviewed by Scholastic agreed that “students should have time during the school day to read a book of their choice independently" ("Study: Teachers Value Independent Reading But Lack Class Time for It," April 26).

As author Liana Loewus noted, in 2000 the National Reading Panel concluded that the evidence did not support in-school independent reading programs, such as Sustained Silent Reading. Re-analyses and discussion of these results, published in several books, journals, and other publications, including Education Week, showed otherwise. 

Ed Week readers might be interested in knowing that research has confirmed that in-school independent reading works for English as a foreign language as well.

I list below three recent meta-analyses done in the last ten years. In each study included in the analyses, time was set aside in the "experimental" group in which students could select their own reading material, and accountability was either minimal or there was no test of any kind. The comparison group experienced traditional pedagogy. Effect sizes in favor of the readers on tests of reading comprehension ranged from .54 (Jeon and Day) to .87 (Krashen).

Jeon, E.Y. and Day, R. (2016). The effectiveness of ER on reading proficiency: A meta-analysis. Reading in a Foreign Language 28, (2), 246-265.
Krashen, S. (2007). Extensive reading in English as a foreign language by adolescents and young adults: A meta-analysis. International Journal of Foreign Language Teaching, 3 (2), 23-29.
Nakanishi, T. (2015). A meta-analysis of extensive reading research. TESOL Quarterly, 49(1), 6–37.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Original article:

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Fake News: The other half of the tax plan

The other half of the new tax plan

Explaining that the recent proposal for federal taxes dealt only with payment, Donald Trump signed an executive order today that changes how tax money will be spent, a plan that he claims will save us billions, as will as increase efficiency in government.

All federal tax payments will henceforth be deposited directly to the president, to be deposted in his personal account without any external monitoring. 

Mr. Trump sad that he alone will determine how the money will be spent.  "I know more about taxes and budgets than anybody else. I know what to do with money. Putting me in charge allows me to use the money exactly where it is needed when it is needed. "

Under this new arrangement, Trump's income tax returns will never be made public, as this would reveal information vital to the national security. 

One hundred billion dollars will immediately transferred into Mr. Trump's account, to be used to start construction of  a series of "Trump Patriot Towers" alsong the US Mexican border to serve as a wall protecting the border. Mr. Trump's office also announced that several prominent artists and engineers have been appointed to a newly created Mount Rushmore Committee,

There was immediate support from Congressional Republicans, while Democratic party leaders were "not sure" that the move was a good idea, and were concerned that it might not even be legal.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

The power of reading, the power of libraries and the "summer slide"

Letter to the editor, published in  Language Magazine
Stephen Krashen
May 2017

Language Magazine readers might be interested in a case study that confirms Andrew Johnson's recommendations for dealing with the summer slide in reading  ("Tales of summer," April, 2017).  In a published journal paper, we (Shu-Yuan Lin, Fay Shin, and S. Krashen) described the case of "Sophia," a high school student whose reading test scores dropped during three consecutive academic years, but increased during the summer. In fact, Sophia's fall reading scores were higher than they were the previous spring.
What did Sophia do during the summer that caused this improvement? She did not attend special classes, did not get instruction in reading strategies, did not work through vocabulary lists, and did not write book reports. All she did was read for pleasure.
According to her mother, Sophia read an average of about 50 books per summer, largely from the local public library. Early favorites were the Nancy Drew and Sweet Valley High series, followed by the Christy Miller series and other books by Francine Pascal, the author of the Sweet Valley series. (Sophia informed us that she was “addicted” to the Christy Miller books; it took her only a week to read the entire series “because I just couldn’t put them down.”)
Sophia’s mother told us that during the school year Sophia was so busy with school work that she had hardly any free time to read. Her mother, in fact, joked that it might be a good idea to keep her daughter at home during the school year in order to increase her scores on standardized tests of reading.
Lin, S-Y, Shin, F., & Krashen, S.  2007. Sophia’s choice: Summer reading. Knowledge Quest 35(4). Available for free download at, under "free voluntary reading."
Stephen Krashen

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

News from 1979 on the "fake reading" controversy in SSR

Stephen Krashen

There is a debate in the field about whether students in sustained silent reading programs spend the time reading, or are just doing "sustained silent page turning."  In Krashen (2011), I reviewed a number of claims that students were doing fake reading, and I concluded that it was surprisingly rare, and when we did see genuine cases, one or more of the principles of SSR were violated, eg not enough books of interest available, the books were too hard, the programs were run under rigid conditions,  and students had a fear of evaluation.

Beath (1979) provides more evidence that non-reading is not widespread and her data confirming that a problem with non-readers in SSR may indeed be in not providing enough comprehensible material.

In her study, 64 fourth graders participating in SSR were observed on three different days by three observers. Observers watched students for ten minutes in 15 second interviews and noted if students were "on-task"  or "off-task" (off-task = eg, flipping through pages out of sequence, talking to one's neighbor, sitting with books closed). Beath reported that there was a substantial amount of reading taking place, with 65% of the students "on-task" at least 90% of the time.

She then divided the group into two equal sub-groups, those who were considered more on-task and those who were less on-task.  The top half, the more on-task group, scored much higher on a standardized reading test,  average grade level 5.36 versus 3.16, a difference of two years.  In other words, those who could read better were shown to be more engaged in reading during SSR, most likely because the material was more comprehensible for them.

Beath informed us that "In each classroom there were many materials, such as magazines, newspapers,  comic books and tradebooks. These materials were at a variety of reading levels." (p. 75). There may not, however, have been enough interesting material at lower levels in the classroom libraries (see also Marshall, 2002, who arrived at a similiar conclusion).

So many of our reading "problems" can be solved by providing more access to comprehensible and truly interesting reading material.


Beath, P. R,  1979. An examination of the relationship between on-task behavior during sustained silent reading and reading achievement. Ph. D. dissertation, University of Maryland.

Krashen, S. 2011. Nonengagement in sustained silent reading: How extensive is it? What can it teach us? Colorado Reading Council Journal 22: 5-10.  (available at, "free voluntary reading." section).

Marshall, J. C. 2002. Are They Really Reading? Expanding SSR in the Middle Grades. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse Publishers.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Why school librarians matter

Sent to the Dallas Morning News, April 17.

Re: 11 Dallas ISD schools are losing their librarians because of budget cuts, April 17, 2017

Are school officials in the Dallas district who are removing librarians from high schools and middle schools aware that research shows that better school libraries and the presence of credentialed school librarians are related to better reading achievement?

One reason school librarians are so valuable is that they are an important source of information about books: The amount of self-selected reading students do is the strongest predictor of performance on reading tests. According to a recent study done by Scholastic, 30% of students ages 12-14 and 19% of those ages 14-16 say that school librarians are among those who give them the best ideas about books to read for fun. School librarians have the biggest impact just before middle school begins: for children ages 9-11, 40% say the school librarian gives them the best ideas about books to read.

Scholastic also found that nearly half of middle schoolers and high schoolers said they had trouble finding books they like and that the amount of pleasure reading done declines sharply beginning at age 9, continuing through high school.

Dallas intends to rip away an important part of the cure for this problem.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

original article:

Kachel, D. and Lance, K. 2013. Latest Study: A full-time school librarian makes a critical difference in boosting student achievement.

Lance, Keith Curry and Linda Hofschire. (2012). Change in School Librarian Staffing Linked with Change in CSAP Reading Performance, 2005 to 2011.
Scholastic: Kids & Family Report Report, 6th editionKrashen, S., Lee, S.Y. 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.
Small, Ruth V., Jaime Snyder, and Katie Parker. 2009. "The Impact of New York's School Libraries on Student Achievement and Motivation: Phase I." School Library Media Research 12.

McQuillan, J. 1998. The Literacy Crisis: False Claims and Real Solutions. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing Company.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Don't know much about history

Sent to USA Today

During the last few weeks, Secretary of Housing Ben Carson said that slaves came to the US as immigrants, White House press secretary, Sean Spicer claimed that Hitler never used poison gas on German citizens, and Donald Trump stated that Frederick Douglass "has done an amazing job," suggesting that he thinks Mr. Douglass is still alive.

In June, 2016, Mr. Trump referred to Belgium as a "beautiful city." The administration has also embraced fake geography.

One hundred and thirty years ago, Mark Twain noted:  “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.” Mr. Trump probably thinks that Mark Twain is a great guy who is doing a phenomenal job of getting things done.

Stephen Krashen

Reading: NOT heavy phonics, NOT memorizing spellings of thousands of words

Sent to the Sydney Morning Herald, April 11
Prof. Anne Castle is quoted as saying that without heavy phonics instruction, readers have to memorize the spellings of thousands of words: "If you don't have phonics,  learning to read is like learning the telephone book. You can only learn so many words."  ("Phonics tests: why some children struggle to read," April 11).
This suggests that there are only two options: memorizing words, known as the "whole word" method, or learning all the rules for converting spellings to sound.
Both are impossible. Nobody can deliberately memorize the spellings of all the words in English, and the rules of phonics are far too numerous and complex to be studied and consciously learned.
Here is a famous example from Frank Smith: hot, hoot, hook, hour, honest, house, hope, honey, and hoist all begin with "ho" but each is pronounced differently. I don't think one person in a million knows the phonics rules that explain this, but all fluent English readers can pronounce these words correctly.  We learned how to do this by reading experience. Learning some basic rules is helpful, but nearly all of our knowledge of phonics is gradually absorbed from reading.
I wonder if Prof. Castle is aware of the published research showing that intensive explicit phonics instruction will produce somewhat more accurate pronunciation of words presented in a list, but has no significant effect on tests of reading comprehension given after grade 1.  The best predictor of performance on reading comprehension tests is how much the children have read.
What really does work in raising reading achievement is access to lots of good books. This means support for libraries and librarians, not complex phonics programs and more tests.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

original article:

High School Graduation: The Four Year Fallacy

Sent to the Los Angeles Daily News, April 11, 2017

The improved high school graduation figure announced in "The LAUSD graduation rate climbs to 77 percent, new data shows," (April 11) is based on graduating in four years, or graduating "with your class."

Announcing graduation rates based only those who graduate "on time" sends the message that there is something wrong with taking longer.  During the depression, the father of education expert Susan
Ohanian went to high school every other year, working to help support the family when he wasn't in school. 

Taking longer than the usual four years during hard times is often an indication of persistence and determination, not laziness.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

original article:

The community college option

Sent to The 74 (74 million reasons to to talk education)

In response to "New Student Data Show That Half of Graduating Seniors in LA Not Eligible for California’s Public Universities" (April 6), George McKenna points out that many graduates not eligible for the University of California would be eligible to attend a community college. 

In a brilliant letter to the editor of the LA Times (Jan. 26, 2017), Ron Garber pointed out that there is no shame "in attending an affordable, high-quality, local community college before completing your four-year degree at a UC or state university."

Besides, Garber points out, you will save over $60,000 and wind up in the same place as someone who attended UC for the full four years.

Stephen Krashen

Original article