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[Susan notes: This is an incredible article. Wilshaw also wants to fine parents for kids' homework not completed and for not showing up at school meetings. Wilshaw said that when he was a headteacher in London's inner-city schools, 'I was absolutely clear with parents; if they weren't doing a good job I would tell them so. It's up to headteachers to say quite clearly: 'You're a poor parent'.'


Submitted to The Guardian but not published

To the editor

Some may approve of Sir Michael Wilshaw's plan to fine parents who don't read to their children ( Schools should fine bad parents says Ofsted chief, June 17), in light of the overwhelming research showing that read-alouds are beneficial: Children who are read to regularly consistently do better on tests of vocabulary, grammar, and listening comprehension, and read-alouds do an excellent job of stimulating interest in books. But there is an easier path: Make books available, and inform parents of the value and pleasure of reading aloud.

In the US, the Reach Out and Read organization has had remarkable success using a modest and inexpensive intervention: While in waiting rooms for well-child pediatrician's appointments, hospital staff members show parents reading activities they can do with their children, with a focus on reading aloud to the child, and staff members discuss the importance of reading, which the physician does as well. The families receive free books at each doctor visit. Reach Out and Read is aimed at lower-income groups who have little access to books and thus typically score considerably lower than average on vocabulary tests.

Studies show that children participating in these programs make excellent gains in vocabulary. In one study over a three-year span subjects had an average of only three well-child appointments in which their doctors discussed books and they received an average of four books over three years. Nevertheless, the children did far better than comparison children on vocabulary tests, scoring closer to middle-class norms.

The families cooperate with this program eagerly. There is no need to use force.


Reach Out and Read: http://www.reachoutandread.org

Krashen, S. 2011. Reach out and read (aloud). Language Magazine 10 (12): 17-19.

Mendelsohn A., Mogiler L., Dreyer B., Forman J., Weinstein S., Broderick M., Cheng K., Magloire T., Moore T. and Napier C. 2001. The impact of a clinic-based literacy intervention on language development in inner-city preschool children. Pediatrics 107(1): 130ΓΆ€“134.

Stephen Krashen

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