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[Susan notes: Stephen Krashen is our most inveterate letter writer, presenting research showing that access to books is what helps children become better readers and writers. ]

Published in USA Today

To the editor

"Improved libraries would boost scores"

USA Today's editorial says federal research shows that "rigorous phonics programs work."

What federal research really shows is that heavy phonics instruction leads to higher scores only on tests in which children read isolated

lists of words out loud ("Debate over how to teach reading slows student gains," Our view, Improving literacy debate, Monday, Nov.


Heavy phonics makes only a tiny contribution to performance on reading comprehension tests given after the first grade. A large number of studies show that children who have more access to books

and read more do better on tests of reading comprehension.

Diana Lam, a deputy chancellor in the New York City Department of Education, is right: Increasing reading opportunities through

improved classroom libraries, as well as school and public libraries, must be a central part of our efforts to improve literacy ("Rich,

varied instruction").

Stephen Krashen, Emeritus Professor, USC

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