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[Susan notes: Three cheers for Stephen Krashen for staying on target about the need to fund libaries.]

Submitted to The Reporter (Vacaville, CA) but not published

To the editor

I agree with Murray Bass that spending 18 million on

ads for universal preschool is a “questionable use of

funds,” (Letters, January 7). My concern is that

universal preschool will become universal test-prep,

with the goal of helping schools look better on

standardized tests. As described these days,

preschool emphasizes “skills,” pushing three and four

year olds to learn things they will acquire easily

when they are older. I regard the universal preschool

movement as a potential danger to childhood.

But I disagree with Mr. Bass that the money would be

better spent on Frontline Phonics or any other

commercial phonics program. Nearly all schools already

teach the basic phonics that is helpful for beginning

readers. Frontline and other programs base their

approach on the conclusions of the National Reading

Panel (NRP), which supports “intensive, systematic

phonics,” an extremist view of phonics that is

inconsistent with the empirical evidence. This report

has been severely criticized. Elaine Garan of Cal

State Fresno, for example, reanalyzed the NRP report

and concluded that children who do intensive

systematic phonics do better on tests of pronouncing

words presented in a list. They do not, however, do

significantly better on tests in which they have to

understand what they read.

A better investment of 18 million dollars is in school

and public libraries. Studies show that school library

quality and staffing are significant predictors of

achievement on reading tests. This makes sense: More

access to books means more reading, and more reading

means better reading, a larger vocabulary, better

spelling, and better writing.

Students who are “behind” in reading are typically

those who are economically disadvantaged, and who

therefore have little access to reading material

outside of school. Investing in libraries is an

obvious first step.

Stephen Krashen

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