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[Susan notes: Note the good analogies in this strong letter.]

Submitted to Los Angeles Times but not published
02/14/2004

To the editor



According to the LA Times ("A small problem growing," Feb. 12) because of nutritional deficiencies, North Koreans are not as tall as South Koreans. The North Korean prime minister has recommended stretching exercises for children as a means of making them taller.



He must have been inspired by No Child Left

Behind and the National Reading Panel. Their approach is also to stretch children by artificial (and painful) means. Children of poverty read less well than children of high-income families because they have less access to print. Instead of providing more print (e.g. better school and public libraries in

high-poverty areas), No Child Left Hehind prescribes (and demands) skill-building: e.g. phonics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension exercises. Just like stretching, it is painful, and just like stretching, it doesn't work.



Korean children need better nutrition. Children of poverty with little access to books need better access to books. There is no substitute.



Saying that we must insist on skills because children just won't read is like saying hungry children just won't eat. But studies clearly show that given interesting and comprehensible reading material, nearly all children find reading pleasant and eventually read.





Stephen Krashen, Emeritus Professor, USC


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