Thursday, January 08, 2009

Krashen on "Anything but Reading"

Anything but reading: Three examples
(Comments posted on Education Week website)
Stephen Krashen

Example One:

An Ed Week blog ("Curriculum Matters") from Dec. 31 informs us that a new TV show (Planet 429) is intended to help 6 to 9 year olds improve in reading comprehension by using "video and multimedia presentations" and links to a website. The creators intend to "develop curriculum for the program, which will include storyboards and animation" and is funded by the US Department of Education.
The assumption appears to be that watching TV, connected with a "curriculum" of some kind, will help reading comprehension. Missing is any mention of the massive evidence showing that reading itself is the best way to improve reading comprehension.

Example Two:

Another blog, Learning the Language (January 5), announces that the US Department of Education has commissioned a study of academic English at the high-school level, asking who is teaching it, what training to they have, how much academic language proficiency do students need to pass state tests, and how much can we expect students to develop.
The assumption from the Dept of Education seems to be that academic language is "taught." Missing is any mention of the massive evidence that large amounts of self-selected reading is an excellent way of acquiring academic language.

Example Three:

In "Scientists Track Poverty's Links to Cognition" (January 7), we learn that children of poverty lack full brain development in the part of the brain that is "active in problem-solving, reasoning and creativity."
This conclusion comes from a study showing that the brains of children of poverty respond more slowly than those of children from high-income families in responding to pictures of triangles mixed with other pictures, apparently because they are less able block out distractions.
One of the researchers said that this might be because of their impoverished environment: "fewer books, less reading, fewer games, fewer visits to museums."
The article then notes that "Work is under way at the university to reverse the brain differences by developing games that improve this area of brain function."
What kind of games? An article in USA Today on this topic tells us: "Such deficiencies are reversible through intensive intervention such as focused lessons and games that encourage children to think out loud or use executive function." In that article, one researcher is quoted as saying that children need "incredibly intensive interventions to overcome this kind of difficulty."
Missing from the discussion is the possibility of providing these children with what is missing in their environment: Better nutrition, safety, and of course access to interesting and comprehensible reading material.


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