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[Susan notes: Thank you, Stephen Krashen, for keeping poor children's access to books in the spotlight-with passion and with facts.]

Published in School Library Journal

To the editor

Wendy North (âFree reading is no solution,â January

2007) interprets my article (âFree reading,â

September, 2006) as saying that access to books and

free reading are all you need to improve literacy.

As I emphasized in the last paragraph of the article,

my position is that access and free reading are not

always sufficient. They are, however, necessary.

Contrary to Ms. Northâs statement, there is no

ânationwideâ literacy crisis. There is, however, a

problem of low literacy development among children of

poverty. Children of poverty get plenty of instruction

on âdeciphering the code,â but have very little access

to books. They typically live in neighborhoods with

inferior school libraries, attend schools with

inferior classroom and school libraries, and have few

books in the home (see for example recent research by

Susan Neuman and Donna Celano in the Reading Research


There is no doubt, as Ms. North maintains, that

children benefit a great deal from help in book

selection, and they also benefit from read-alouds and

discussions about reading, but without access to

interesting reading material, it is unlikely that they

will develop beyond the lowest levels of literacy.

Stephen Krashen

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