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[Susan notes: People who design reading programs ignore mountains of research about what works.]

Published in Tampa Bay Times

To the editor

Pinellas County's summer program is doing it the hard way: More classroom instruction in reading is not nearly as effective as encouraging free, voluntary self-selected reading.

The first study of the summer slump, done in 1975 by Barbara Heyns, showed that the difference in reading development between children from low and middle incomes is largely the result of lack of access to reading material over the summer. Heyns found that those who live closer to libraries read more, and both Heyns and Harvard scholar Jimmy Kim, 30 years later, found that children who read more over the summer made more gains in reading.

Also, Fay Shin and I reported that sixth-graders behind in reading who participated in a summer program focusing on self-selected reading and plenty of library time made dramatic gains in reading.

All this agrees with mountains of research showing that extensive reading for pleasure is far more effective than traditional classroom instruction in reading for boosting reading proficiency, as well as studies showing that better libraries mean higher reading proficiency.

Stephen Krashen

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