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[Susan notes: Vintage Krashen. Various spokespeople for the U. S. Department of Education push for scripted reading instruction are on the attack against silent reading and we can be grateful to Krashen for citing research to the contrary. ]

Submitted to American Educator but not published

To the editor

In “Drop everything and read – but how?” (American

Educator, Summer 2006) Jan Hasbrouck states that

research does not support silent reading, citing the

report of the National Reading Panel. The NRP found

only 14 studies comparing the impact of silent reading

with traditional instruction on tests of reading

comprehension. In my critique (Phi Delta Kappan,

2001), I concluded that silent reading was as

effective or more effective than traditional

instruction in 50 out of 53 comparisons and was a

consistent winner in long-term studies. Since then, a

number of reports have appeared in professional

journals supporting the value of silent reading. Also,

there has been a lively debate between me and panel

member Timothy Shanahan on this issue, with several

articles, letters and notes appearing in Education

Week, The Kappan, Reading Today,
and elsewhere.

Hasbrouck is free to take sides in this debate, of

course, but is not free to ignore it.

Hasbrouck also feels that silent reading is not for

beginners, who may “waste time” during reading

sessions and find material for self-selected reading

too difficult. I agree that silent reading is not

appropriate for very beginning readers; it is designed

for readers who have developed enough competence to

get meaning from texts. Nevertheless, children who

appear to be reading books that are "too hard" may in

fact be finding comprehensible sections that are of

interest to them, skipping parts they don’t understand

but getting meaning and enjoyment from the parts they

focus on. Also, there is no supprt for the claim that

children in sustained silent reading (SSR) sessions do

nothing or choose books they do not understand:

Several studies have confirmed that if SSR classes are

observed in the middle of the school year, about 90%

of the students are clearly engaged in real reading.

Hasbrouck article available at:


Stephen Krashen

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