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[Susan notes: Three cheers for Steve Krashen for continuing to remind journalists and the rest of us about the issue everybody ignores: children's lack of access to books.]

Submitted to Los Angeles Times but not published

To the editor

The LA Times mentions a longer school day and a reward system among promising ways of increasing middle school student achievement (“The neglected middle classes,” July 26).

A number of studies show that access to books and the amount of recreational reading the students do are very good predictors of how well students do on tests of reading comprehension. Studies also show, contrary to popular opinion, that young people really do enjoy reading.

There are, however, two barriers to increasing the amount of reading students do: Lack of access to books (California has the worst school libraries in the country, and among the worst public libraries) and little time to read, thanks to the increased demands of school.

For reading and language arts, the “grim determination” approach may make things worse. I am not advocating abandoning all rigor in the curriculum, but easing up a bit and improving libraries might produce better results.

Stephen Krashen

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