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[Susan notes: This provides a positive, factual rebuttal of an ugly story.]

Published in Detroit News
12/18/2009

To the editor

Detroit is looking in all the wrong places to explain their low reading scores, and is ignoring the most obvious ("Detroit parents want DPS teachers, officials jailed over low test scores," Dec. 13). Jailing teachers, new reading initiatives, and volunteer tutors are not the answer. The answer is improved school libraries, staffed by certified librarians.

Study after study has confirmed the common-sense idea that reading itself is the best way to develop reading ability: Children who read more do better on all tests of literacy, including the fourth grade NAEP reading test, the test Detroit children did so poorly on.

But in order to read, children need access to books, and for children of low-income families, the only source is the school library. Research done by me as well as Dr. Jeff McQuillan has confirmed that access to books is strongly related to performance on the NAEP exam for fourth graders, even when we control for the effects of poverty. A study done by Dr. Keith Lance and colleagues in 2003 confirmed that the presence of credentialed librarians in Michigan is related to higher reading test scores.

I suggest that the investigative reporters of the Detroit News check on the quality of school libraries in Detroit as well as library staffing.

Stephen Krashen


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