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[Susan notes: As usual, Stephen Krashen cuts to the core: kids who don't read well need to read, and to read they need access to good books. ]

Submitted to Parade but not published

To the editor

Norman Mailer (“One idea,” January 23) presents a

plausible explanation for the decline in reading among young people: The ability to concentrate has been spoiled by TV commercials. There is a problem, however, with this explanation. There is no evidence that TV is a serious problem. Studies show only a very weak negative relationship between the amount of TV children watch and how well children do on reading tests. TV watching is only a problem if it is excessive.

There are, nevertheless, substantial numbers of

children who do not read well. For the most part,

these are children of poverty; the obvious cause of their reading problems is a lack of access to books. Research shows that those who have more access to books read more, and those who read more read better. Children of poverty have little access to reading material at school because of inferior school and classroom libraries and classroom libraries. They also have less access to books at home, and public libraries in low-income areas are of lower quality and are open less than those in high-income areas.

The most important part of the cure for these children is improved school and public libraries, a suggestion supported by research showing a relationship between reading achievement and access to quality libraries.

There are, of course, children who will not read even when books are available, but if the reading material is compelling and comprehensible, most become eager readers. Perhaps the best evidence is the fact that prepublication sales of the next Harry Potter book are gigantic. Amazon has already had over a million orders, even though the bookwill not be published for six months. This should put to rest any suggestion that children are no longer interested in reading.

Stephen Krashen

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