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[Susan notes: This letter was published in reaction to LA Times article about phonics for middle schoolers and high schoolers.

Published in Los Angeles Times

Remedial Reading for Teens Ignores Major Problem

The LAUSD's decision to pump $16 million into phonics for middle and high school students ignores one of the district's major problems: poor libraries.

Districts and states that have more books per student in the school library have higher reading scores, even when other factors, such as poverty, are taken into consideration. The average school library in the U.S. has 18 books per child. California is last among states with 12 books per child. The LAUSD has a dismal six books per child.
For the U.S. as a whole, there is one school librarian for every 900 students. California is last in the U.S., with less than one school librarian for every 5,000 students. The LAUSD does not fund a librarian in any of its elementary schools'libraries.

Including some phonics in a basic reading program is a good idea. It is one way of making texts more comprehensible. However, the problem readers in the new program have already had phonics instruction. Remedial readers need lots of interesting and comprehensible reading material. Because California has one of the worst public library systems in the country, and because so many poor readers are children of poverty, this reading material is not easily available outside of school. Improved school libraries are the only chance these children have.

Stephen Krashen
Professor of Education
University of Southern California

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