Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Krashen on rewarding reading

Sent to American Libraries, October 11, 2008

The October issue of American Libraries carried two short notices that might be sending the wrong message: Bug Bites (on page 33) told us that the public library director in a Midwest city bet children in a summer reading program that they could not read a certain number of books. He lost, and as a result had to eat barbecued mealworms. The suggestion is that the reason the children read so much was to see the director eat worms.
"Most Valuable Reader" (page 32) reported that a youngster won a plaque from a professional football team as an award for reading. Other prizes included footballs and a visit to the team's training camp. The suggestion is that the reason these children read so much was to get football-related rewards.
The appearance of these notes suggests that American Libraries thinks that rewarding reading in this way is a fine idea. There is, however, no evidence that rewarding reading increases reading competence, despite claims made by producers of reading management programs, and there is evidence that rewards can have long-term damaging effects.
Many studies show what readers of American Libraries know: Reading is pleasant, and for many people, a positive addiction. Studies also show, however, that if we reward children for doing something intrinsically pleasant, we run the risk of their loosing interest in the activity when the reward is no longer available: We are sending the message that nobody would do it without a bribe. Researchers Barbara Ann Marinak and Linda Gambrell have recently provided evidence that this happens when we reward reading, extending and confirming findings of Vonnie McLoyd from 1979.
Until more studies are done on the effects of rewarding children for reading, we should reconsider endorsing these practices, either explicitly or implicitly.
Stephen Krashen

No evidence that rewarding reading increases reading competence: McQuillan, J. 1997. The effects of incentives on reading. Reading Research and Instruction, 36:111-125. Krashen, S. 2003. The (lack of) experimental evidence supporting the use of accelerated reader. Journal of Children's Literature, 29 (2): 9,16-30. Krashen, S. 2005. Accelerated reader: Evidence still lacking. Knowledge Quest 33(3): 48-49.
Reading is pleasant: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Portsmouth: Heinemann and Westport: Libraries Unlimited.
Providing an extrinsic reward: Kohn, A. 1999. Punished by Rewards. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Second Edition. McLoyd, V. 1979. The effects of extrinsic rewards of differential value on high and low intrinsic interest. Child Development, 50, 636-644. Marinak, B. and Gambrell, L. 2008. Intrinsic motivation and rewards: What sustains young children's engagement with text? Literacy Research and Instruction, 47 (1): 9 - 26

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Krashen on poverty

Let's deal with the cause of the problem

Sent to USA Today, December 9, 2008

Experts quoted in "Study: Poverty dramatically affects children's brains" (December 8) seem to think that the solution to poor brain development in children of poverty should consist of "interventions" that include "focused lessons and games" that need to be "incredibly intensive."
There is no suggestion that we deal directly with the cause of the problem.
As USA Today writer Greg Toppo notes, children of poverty suffer from malnutrition, stress, and highly toxic environments. Instead of torturing children with "incredibly intensive" drills and exercises, how about providing more and better food, cleaner air, and cleaner water? How about providing more access to books through improved libraries? How about insuring a safe environment where children can play outside without stress and fear?
The only problem with this solution: Less profit for textbook and software producers.

Stephen Krashen

Monday, December 08, 2008

Krashen on why bilingual programs are win-win

Bilingual Programs are Win-Win

Sent to The Age (Australia), Dec 6, 2008

Both sides in the debate over bilingual education ("Aboriginal language at risk in NT," December 6) are right about goals.
Tom Calma is right when he says that there are clear advantages to developing the child's heritage language: High levels of bilingualism have been shown to be good for cognitive development, resulting in better school performance. Recent studies also suggest that bilingualism helps older people as well: It can delay the onset of dementia.
Marion Scrymgour is right when she says that "kids are entitled to learn English".
One way to help children acquire English to high levels is the use of the first language in school. Good bilingual programs use the first language in ways that accelerate English language development. Scientific studies, controlling for background factors, consistently show that children in bilingual programs make very good progress in the second language, typically doing better than children in second language "immersion" programs. Bilingual education thus offers a win-win situation, providing both heritage language development and strong English language development.
A second way to increase English proficiency is to make sure children have access to reading material in both languages. English language learners are often children of poverty, and studies tell us that children of poverty have little access to reading material at home, at school, or in their communities. Studies also tell us that those who read more for pleasure read better, write better, spell better, have larger vocabularies, and better command of complex grammar. Clearly, we must invest in public and school libraries in high poverty areas. An English learner who becomes a dedicated reader in English will do well academically and have no trouble on any standardized test of English.

Stephen Krashen

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Krashen defends US schools

Sent to Time Magazine, Dec. 1, 2008
According to many polls, people think that American schools are of low quality, but think that their neighborhood school is ok. They have first-hand information about their neighborhood school, but their information about other schools comes from distortions in the media, such as statements included in the column on the right side of the first page of "Can She Save Our Schools," (Dec. 6).
In common with most teaching/school-bashing articles, it is claimed that a low percentage of our students reach the proficient level on standardized tests, our students do much worse than those in other countries and our high school graduation rates are low. None of these claims are true.
Scholars such as Richard Rothstein and Gerald Bracey have argued that test makers in the US set the criteria for levels such as "proficient" much too high. Bracey has pointed out that using our standards, no country in the world would come close to having a majority of proficient readers.
Comparisons with other countries ignore the poverty variable. Rothstein has documented that children of poverty have inferior health care, an inferior diet, and fewer educational opportunities outside of school, such as travel and trips to museums. They are also less likely to have their own study area, get less help with homework, and have far less access to books in the home and in their communities. These factors have a profound influence on academic achievement.
Bracey has pointed out that American schools with low poverty rates score higher than even the highest scoring countries on standardized tests; only American schools with high levels of poverty (75% or more) fall below the international average.
Studies tell us that one of the main reasons students drop out is that they have to work. Even so, according to the US Census, about 85% of adults 25 or older in the US are now high school graduates, the highest in our history. In 1910, only 13.5% of adults had graduated high school.
Time's researchers need to go back to school.
Stephen Krashen
Time article:,9171,1862444,00.html