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[Susan notes: It is crucial that we keep insisting on the importance of the availability of good books.]

Published in St. Louis Post-Dispatch

To the editor

The Post-Dispatch was unusually thorough in its portrayal of the phonics  whole language debate, but some crucial facts were left out (Schools will introduce phonics-based program,  October 23). Elaine Garans research shows that programs that emphasize heavy, intensive phonics show good results only on tests in which children read lists of words in isolation. Heavy phonics has no significant impact on tests of reading comprehension given after grade 2.

All programs include some phonics, but the research shows that by far the most important factor in insuring success in reading is the availability of good books. Studies also show that children of poverty score low on reading tests not because of lack of phonics but because they have few books in their homes, live in communities with lower quality public libraries, and go to schools with inferior school libraries. Our first priority should be to improve our libraries, especially in areas in which children have no other source of reading material.

Stephen Krashen

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