Friday, September 29, 2017

Jeff McQuillan destroys intensive phonics with a few sentences

Letter sent to the Telegraph UK
Sept 28, 2017

Dear Sir:

Nick Gibb’s enthusiasm for the “reading revolution” (28 September) is misplaced. Evidence from a report by Stephen Machin and his colleagues from the London School of Economics (“Teaching to Teach” Literacy (2016)) shows that synthetic phonics instruction has little to no effect on reading scores by the time children reach Key Stage 2 (age 11). 

Their data are consistent with higher-quality, experimental studies that have found that phonics has a modest impact on reading scores initially, but no lasting impact in later grades. 

Jeff McQuillan, Ph.D.

Original article link:

See for re-analysis of Machin data.

Friday, September 15, 2017


The reading hypothesis – reading: source of our reading ability, writing ability (writing style), vocabulary, spelling, grammar competence.  Most powerful form = free voluntary reading (FVR)
FVR as a bridge; makes demanding reading more comprehensible

Spanish as a foreign language - test of subjunctive was “monitor-free”;  Stokes et al.
One hour of reading = .6 points on TOEIC. Mason and Krashen, 2015.
Amount of reading & vocabulary size (English speakers, age 42):
(1) Reading at age 42 counts, independent of reading at 16 or younger & previous vocabulary.  (2) Fiction counts  (3) Reading counts even if control for parent occupation and parent education.  (4) reading counts more than your education.
Sullivan, A. and Brown, M. 2014.

SSR: SUSTAINED SILENT READING: Better than Traditional Instruction: 1st and 2nd languages, given a long enough program, access to good reading material

PERFORMANCE Geoffrey Canada, Elizabeth Murray
Goeffrey Canada: "I loved reading, and my mother, who read voraciously too, allowed me to have her novels after she finished them. My strong reading background allowed me to have an easier time of it in most of my classes."
Liz Murray (Breaking Night): "Any formal education I received came from the few days I spent in attendance, mixed with knowledge I absorbed from random readings of my or Daddy's ever-growing supply of unreturned library books. And as long as I still showed up steadily the last few weeks of classes to take the standardized tests, I kept squeaking by from grade to grade."

Develops Knowledge: Stanovich & colleagues: readers know more about literature, history, science,  "cultural literacy," "practical knowledge." 
Career success: “omnivorous reading in childhood and adolescence correlates positively with ultimate adult success" (Simonton, 1988)
Michael Faraday (1791-1867): influence of working for a bookbinder for 7 years.

The Case for Fiction
1. Much of voluntary reading is fiction; Thus fiction responsible for literacy devevelpment, knowledge
2. Fiction > literacy development  The UK study: Sullivan and Brown
Mar & Rain, 2015: more fiction > better on vocabulary, tests of reading  (modest correlations) more non-fiction > no effect, even sometimes negative.

Habits of thought: understand others' points of view
More tolerance for vagueness, better able to deal with uncertainty
President Obama gives fiction the credit for his understanding that "the world is complicated and full of grays ... it's possible to connect with someone else even though they're very different from you."

Long-term effects of light/easy reading
1.    readers eventually choose "good books" (Schoovover, 1938)
2.    as students mature,  select more complex books and from a wider vareity of genres (LaBrant, 1958)
3.    Select at or above their reading level

Pleasure of reading - Nell (1988) citing Somerset Maugham – reading addiction
  Nell: reading before you go to sleep
Develops Knowledge (Stanovich): career success (Simonton)

The problem: Access to books. The solution: Libraries. poverty – little access to books at home,  school, in their neighborhoods
The Philadephia study: Neuman and Celano
The International PIRLS study (Krashen, Lee and McQuillan, 2012)

Combining self-selected reading with subject matter: The Book Whisperer (Donalyn Miller)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Librarians!!! In Chgo Tribune, Sept 8

We still need librarians in public schools.
Published in the Chicago Tribune, Sept. 8, 2017

Congratulations to the Tribune for informing the public about the lack of school librarians in Chicago.

Not mentioned in the Sept. 5 article “Most of city's schools now lack librarians,” however, is the research showing that the presence of a credentialed school librarian is a significant predictor of reading achievement.

A recent study done by Scholastic tells us at least part of the reason why: School librarians connect young readers with books that are right for them.

This is crucial. Research also tells us that students who develop a reading habit read better, write better, spell better, have better control of grammar, and have larger vocabularies.  Readers also know more about a wide variety of subjects. It is therefore no surprise that they do better on standardized tests of literacy.

We cheerfully spend billions on unvalidated tests and untested technology, yet we ignore the impressive research  on libraries and librarians, and are unwilling to make the modest investments that will ensure that school libraries are well supplied with books and are staffed with credentialed librarians.

— Stephen Krashen, Los Angeles, professor emeritus, University of Southern California

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Don't allow Mandarin to become a "killer language."

Comment on "Can Putonghua Relieve Poverty?"  (Published in Language Magazine, December 2017, vol 17, 4. page 8).

Original article:

Stephen Krashen

Mandarinization of China, and other countries speaking Chinese languages, has clear advantages, but it should not result in the death of local languages. There are many advantages in maintaining and even promoting "heritage" languages and there are no disadvantages:  it promotes bilingualism, which has positive effects on cogntive development (one I am particularly interested in is that it delays dementia),  has economic advantages, promoting business activity in the larger regions as well as locally, and gives the younger generation access to the wisdom of their elders. 
Use of the home language in school makes acquisition of the second language (Mandarin in this case) much  easier. It is easier to develop literacy in a language you already understand, and once you can read in any language, it transfers across languages. Also, subject matter knowledge learned in the first language will make instruction in the second language more comprehensible. This has been confirmed in many studies.
China should not allow Mandarin to become a "killer language," eliminating local languages.  This has happened in Singapore: the push for Mandarin has resulted in a huge reduction in the use of Hakaan, Cantonese and other Chinese languages in homes.  Fortunately, other Chinese languages seem to be making a come-back in Singapore as people realize the benefits: