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13 November 2014 @ 10:20 am
Words, words, words Redux  
A recent study in Great Britain concluded: "So who increased their vocabularies the most between the ages of 16 and 42? Our statistical analysis took account of differences in people’s socio-economic backgrounds and in their vocabulary test scores at the ages of five, ten and 16. We found that reading for pleasure in both childhood and adulthood made a difference to rates of vocabulary growth between adolescence and middle-age." You can read more here: https://theconversation.com/your-vocabulary-aged-40-depends-on-how-much-you-read-as-a-teenager-33852.

So, does it then follow that perhaps some of the "college and career readiness" emphasis might be addressed by reading for pleasure? Makes sense to me, but not to those stringent followers of the CCSS dogma. In recent chats on Twitter, the topic of choice (which is a component of reading for pleasure) was one that produced some interesting questions and comments. One of the rather troubling comments is that choice is fine for outside reading but not for classroom reading. There was a great deal of hesitancy about permitting students choice (even limited choice) of materials for reading. If choice is always consigned to the leisure or pleasure or independent reading categories, what message does that send to kids? I think it says, "choice is fine when you are reading just for fun, but you are not to be trusted with choice within the walls of this classroom." I am NOT saying that there is never a time to share a common text. I AM saying that if all novels are class novels and all readings are class readings, the element of choice is excluded. And, make no mistake, choice is key.

But back to the pleasure reading and its effects on our vocabulary long after schooling ends. There are two final points made in the article. One expresses a concern about school libraries (and public libraries) being closed or not having a librarian in charge of the library. A second concern is the lack of books in the homes of kids. These are not new concerns. Stephen Krashen has written about the importance of books in the home for a long time. If you have not read his work, let me suggest you mosey over to his web site (http://www.sdkrashen.com) and take time to read the articles he has made available there. An ongoing study by Keith Curry Lance has demonstrated the strong correlation between school libraries (staffed by a certified librarian with an adequate collection) and test scores. You can see this research here: http://keithcurrylance.com/school-library-impact-studies/.

It is time to consider a strong push back, folks. We need to provide time for reading for pleasure in and out of school (and let parents know ow to do this); we need strong libraries; we need books kids will elect to read.
 
 
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