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[Susan notes: As I read Stephen's letter in a hotel business center, a nearby teacher is watching "Vowel Boot Camp.' More about this soon.]

Published in Education Week
01/25/2006

To the editor



You report that comparing 2005 National Assessment of

Educational Progress scores from 11 cities is not

beneficial in determining the effectiveness of reading

approaches("NAEP Results Offer Scant Insight Into Best

Reading Strategies," Jan. 11, 2006.) . But NAEP has

taught us a great deal: NAEP results consistently

confirm that children with more access to reading

material read better, and that children who read more

likewise read better.



NAEP itself has reported a positive relationship

between the amount of reading children do and how well

they perform on its reading test. Also, NAEP analyses

have shown that scores are higher when teachers give

students more time to read books of their own

choosing.



In an analysis of NAEP scores in 41 states, Jeff

McQuillan, in his book The Literacy Crisis: False

Claims, Real Solutions, reported a strong relationship

between performance on the NAEP test and the quality

of children・s overall print environment (books

available at home, school libraries, and public

libraries). This relationship remained when the effect

of poverty was controlled.



We should also consider the interesting case of

California. That state・s extremely low score on NAEP

in 1992 was blamed on whole-language reading

instruction. Yet, despite the purge of whole language

from California schools and the introduction of

intensive, systematic phonics, there has been no

significant improvement in California・s NAEP scores:

The state still ranks near the bottom among states

that took the national assessment, tied for next to

last in 2005. California has the worst school

libraries in the nation and among the worst public

libraries. This was true in 1992 and remains so today.



These results suggest that the way to get higher NAEP

scores is to improve children・s access to books, and

the most obvious way for schools to do this is to

improve their libraries. Studies show that when

interesting and comprehensible reading materials are

available, children do in fact read. Perhaps NAEP

scores have :stagnated; because we have not considered

this easily discerned way of improving reading.

Stephen Krashen

Professor Emeritus

Stephen Krashen


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