Wednesday, May 9, 2018


Presentation at Library of Congress Literacy Awards Conference
Stephen Krashen  (

Martin Luther King: "We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.”
Dr. King was right: The most important factor in literacy development is poverty. 

Those living in poverty have far less access to reading material in their homes, schools and neighborhoods. 
The Scholastic Report(p. 16): the number of children’s books in the home according to income level. 
35K less

Neuman & Celano (2001): public libraries in middle-income neighborhoods in Philadelphia open more evenings, stayed open longer, far more juvenile books per child than libraries in poorer neighborhoods.  Conclusion: “Children in middle-income neighborhoods were likely to be deluged with books. However, children from poor neighborhoods would have to aggressively and persistently seek them out" (p. 15). 

Children who live closer to libraries do more pleasure reading over the summer (Heyns, 1985). 
Ramos & Krashen (1998): The impact of one trip to the public library, 2nd& 3rdgraders  (10 books per child!).  
Survey: 3 weeks after visit
Child survey (n = 93)First time at public library: 62%; Reading more since visit 62% 
Parent survey (n=75) Children more interested in reading since visiting library: 96%; Notice improvement in child’s reading: 94%;  Child spends more time with books: 94%; Children asked parent to take them to the library since the visit: 67%.

READING > LITERACY (reading, writing, grammar, vocabulary, spelling) & HABITS OF MIND
(Self-selected, narrow reading, usually includes lots of fiction).
UK Study: Predictors of scores on vocabulary test at age 42 (Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. 2014. Univ. of London)
- Reading at age 42: independent of reading at 16 & younger, previous vocab, parent occupation/education
- Fiction: high-brow and middle-brow, but not low-brow > nonfiction
Mason & Krashen (2017): Self-selected reading and TOEIC performance (one hour = .6 TOEIC pts.)
Knowledge of literature, social science, science, practical knowledge: West, Stanovich, & Mitchell (1993). 
Elizabeth 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."
Geoffrey Canada (Fist, Stuck, Knife, Gun): "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.”
Habits of mind: empathy, appreciation of complexity: Kidd, D. & Castano (2013), Oatley & Moldoveanu (2013). 

Poor spelling an indication of more serious problems. (Published in Washington Post, 3/30,18) 
Mr. Trump’s spelling mistakes reflect problems deeper than a failure to proofread (“Elected to read, not to proofread,” March 21, 2018). My research shows that poor spelling is often the result of not having a reading habit. Studies also show that those who read a lot know more about history and science. They also have greater empathy with others, and understand that the world is complex.  Mr. Trump is a perfect example of a non-reader.     Stephen Krashen

NAEP/PIRLS studies: POVERTY > LITERACY; ACCESS  > LITERACY – library balances effect of poverty!

Predictors of NAEP reading test scores, grade 4, 1992, 42 states 
r2 = .72.   From: McQuillan, 1998.  Access = books in home, school, community. Replication Krashen et al; 2012. 

Predictors of reading - The PIRLS 2006: over 40 countries, tested in first language
Independent reading
Library: 500 books
r2 = .63  from: Krashen, S., Lee, S.Y. & McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? 
Replicated, 2011, 2016. No effect for early literacy.

Control for poverty, US scores near top of the world:  Carnoy & Rothstein, 2013 (problem is NOT teachers, schools of education, unions)

PATHS: (1) Reduce, eliminate poverty (2) Protect children against the effects of poverty.  (How to pay for it: reduce unnecessary testing: Krashen, 2008: NUT.)

Post-script: There is no evidence of a serious decline in reading. The real problem is POVERTY.
Minutes per day of reading

Link and Hopf, 1946; Rideout et al, 2010
Why we think “kids these days” don’t read much: Schatz, A., et al, 2008.

Carnoy, M.  & Rothstein, R.  (2013). What Do International Tests Really Show Us about U.S. Student Performance.Economic Policy Institute.
Heyns, B. 1975. Summer Learning and the Effect of School. Academic Press.
Kidd, D., & Castano, E. (2013). Reading literary fictionimproves theory of mind.  Science, 342.Djikic
Krashen, S. 2008. The fundamental principle: No unnecessary testing (NUT).  The Colorado Communicator vol 32,1. Page 7, 2008.
Krashen, 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.
Link, H. & Hopf, H. (1946). People and books: A study of reading and book-buying habits. New York: Book Manufacturers’ Institute.
Rideout, V., Foehr, U., & Roberts, D. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8 to 18 year-olds. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation.
Mason, B. & Krashen, S. 2017. Self-selected reading and TOEIC performance. Shitennoji University Bulletin, 63.  
McQuillan, J. 1998. The Literacy Crisis: False Claims and Real Solutions. Heinemann Publishing Company. 
Neuman, & Celano, (2001). Access to print in low-income and middle- income communities. Reading Research Quarterly, 36(1).
Oatley, K. & Moldoveanu, M. (2013). Opening the closed mind: The effect of exposure to literature on the need for closure. Creativity Research Journal, 25(2)
Schatz, A., Pierce, K., Ghalambor, K. and Krashen, S. 2008. More on the "literacy crisis": Do children like to read? Knowledge Quest 37 (1): 40-41.
Scholastic, Kids & Family Reading Report, 6thedition
Ramos, F. and Krashen, S. 1998. The impact of one trip to the public library: Making books available may be the best incentive for reading. The Reading Teacher 51(7): 614-615.
Smith, C. , Constantino, R. & Krashen, S. 1997. Differences in print environment for children in Beverly Hills, Compton and West, R., Stanovich, & Mitchell, H. (1993). Reading in the real world and its correlates. Reading Research Quarterly, 28

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Cantonese is a language

Sent to the Hong Kong Free Press, May 2

Re: “Cantonese a dialect, not a mother tongue, says Hong Kong Education Bureau supporting material on Mandarin.” (May 2, 2018)

Song Yinqiao has stated that Cantonese is a dialect of Chinese and therefore cannot be considered to be a mother tongue. If so, Mandarin is also a Chinese dialect and cannot be considered to be a mother tongue. 

Stephen Krashen (Ph.D, Linguistics, UCLA)
Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

90% fever: Should we require that the teacher use the target language 90% of the time in class?

Language teachers are told that they should make sure they use the target language in class 90% of the time or more.  I have no idea who came up with this number, but there is no solid research I know of that supports it. There is no research I know of that says the percentage of first language use should be 100% of the time, 80% of the time or 50% of time. 
What research does say is that we need to supply a lot of compelling comprehensible input, and that using the first language is one way of making second language input more comprehensible. This can sometimes be a single word, or a short explanation. 
The research also says that some uses of the first language are not helpful. They include translating everything we say into the first language, or spending a great deal of time talking about complex grammatical rules. 
Stating a percentage requirement of 90% (or any percentage) says nothing about HOW the first language is used. A teacher could easily meet the 90% requirement simply by speaking the first language all period, without regard as to whether the input is comprehensible. 
If we simply focus first language use on making second language input more comprehensible, e.g. an occasional translation of a problematic word or a brief explanation of grammar, I predict that use of the second language will be 90% or more. But if our goal is only to use the second language 90% of the time, there is no guarantee that it will be used in the service of providing comprehensible input. 

Stephen Krashen

Insituto Krashen?


This is from an article in El Universal: “Branlyn Jaraba está en el radar de la Major League Baseball” about a baseball player in Colombia interested in playing the Major Leagues in the US.  He is studying English at the “instituto Krashen.”  


“Branlyn Jaraba Lorduy terminó académicamente  en el ICCA en el primer semestre de 2017. Actualmente recibe clases en inglés en el Instituto Krashen con el firme propósito de manejar el idioma al máximo para estar preparado cuando le llegue la oportunidad de firmar con alguna organización de la MLB.”



This is the first I have heard of this school. I have no connection with them, and no idea what teaching methods they are using.