Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Bookmooch Plan

The Bookmooch plan: An easy way to help close the access-to-books gap and clean up your clutter at the same time
Stephen Krashen

Published in Language Magazine as  Re-gifted reading. Language Magazine, 13(5): 17. 2014

There is overwhelming evidence that those who live in poverty have little access to books at home, in schools and in public and school libraries, and that the lack of access to books impacts literacy development, and also results in less knowledge of the world. Research, in fact, strngly suggests that lack of access to books is the major reason for the literacy “achievement gap,” the difference in reading ability between children coming from higher and lower income families. 

Someday, ebooks might be available at a reasonable cost for everybody. But until this happens, I would like to suggest one way we help close the access-to-books gap. It requires no special funding from the government or the Gates Foundation, no paperwork, and no sacrifice. In fact, we can do it in a way that benefits everybody. 

Most middle-class people have extra books in their homes, books they would like to give away. We often do this by donating to goodwill-type organizations, but there is a problem: There is no way we can insure that the books get to those who really need or want them. 

An organization called “bookmooch,” founded by John Buckman, has solved this problem. Bookmooch (bookmooch.com) is a book swap club. You list the books you want to give away. Another bookmooch memberscan claim one of these books. You then send the book to the person and pay the postage (media mail). When you do this, you get one point. You can then use this point to claim somebody else’s book and they pay the postage. You can thus get books you want for only the cost of postage.  (You get more points for mailing to another country, and pay more points when ordering books from another country.) There is no cost to join or use bookmooch.

And now the interesting part: Bookmooch lists charities you can donate your points to if you have some left over.  Those of us bookmooch users who have built up huge book collections always have a surplus of points. Bookmooch supplies a list of “worthy causes”: They include school libraries, classroom libraries, public libraries, and prison libraries. 

Bookmooch members exchange about 2000 books a day and donate about 2% of their points to charities, about 10,000 books a year. As of 2012, bookmooch had about 25,000 active members. If bookmooch had 2.5 million active members, this means that the charities would get about a million books a year, assuming that 2% of members points are donated.  If bookmooch members get a little more generous and donate even a mere four points a year, with a million members this means ten million books given to libraries and therefore available to those who really need them but cannot get them elsewhere. 

The crucial fact is that the bookmooch charity libraries can order precisely the books they want: They can select ANY of the half million books listed on bookmooch. 

There are about 50 million people living at or under the poverty line right now, 50 million people who can’t afford books and who are dependent on libraries.  An extra million books a year will not completely close the access-to-books gap, but it will be a big help, especially because they will be the books these libraries need for their members.

And now the advantage to you: You get to clean up your home library.  As you children and grandchildren get older, you can give away all those wonderful children’s books to libraries so that children of poverty can enjoy them just as much as the children in your family did. You can give away that extra copy of that Jane Austin novel that has been on your shelf for ten years, or that popular romance or spy novel that you know you don’t want to reread. 

You also will have the satisfaction of knowing that your book will go to somebody who wants that particular book, and you have made a donation to a real charity.

Finally, as a bookmooch member, you will have access to a lot of books you might want or need at very very low cost. 

PS: I got on bookmooch because I read light fiction in other languages, mostly German and French. Other bookswap groups I looked at are not international. Bookmooch keeps me well-supplied. This is particularly important for foreign language teachers who are not native speakers of the language they teach - light fiction is an easy, pleasant way to not only keep your competence but actually improve when native speakers are not around (and even when they are). 

NAEP Scores, Reading First, and Whole Language

In a recent blog, Michael Petrilli states that "NAEP scores in fourth-grade reading jumped significantly, especially for the low-income, low achieving students who were Reading First’s focus."
I discussed this claim in Krashen (2006), pointing out, as others have, that the jump was not related to Reading First. In addition, I discuss other cases in which Reading First was considered to be succussful, and point out that the data is not clear at all. 
Krashen, S.  2006. Did reading first work? ninglunbooks.files.wordpress.com/2008/01/krashen_reading_first.pdf
(To access this article, please google "Did reading first work? Krashen" and click on the pdf.) I will post it on www.sdkrashen.com soon.)

Petrilli also refers to whole language as "discredited" and "ineffectual."  There is plenty of evidence that whole language (not "whole-word") is effective, reviewed in these papers and in one book:
Krashen, S. 1999. Three Arguments Against Whole Language and Why They are Wrong. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann Publishing Co.
Krashen, S. 2002. The NRP comparison of whole language and phonics: Ignoring the crucial variable in reading. Talking Points, 13(3): 22-28.
Krashen, S. 2002. Defending whole language: The limits of phonics instruction and the efficacy of whole language instruction. Reading Improvement 39 (1): 32-42.
Krashen, S. 2002. Whole language and the great plummet of 1987-92: An urban legend from California. Phi Delta Kappan 83 (10): 748-753.
Petrilli blog: "On Tony Bennett’s “grading-gate,” avoid the rush to judgment" Michael J. Petrilli / July 30, 2013 http://www.edexcellence.net/commentary/education-gadfly-daily/flypaper/2013/on-tony-bennetts-grading-gate-avoid-the-rush-to-judgment.html

Monday, July 29, 2013

We don’t need threatening and useless tests, and we don't need "fluency training."

Sent to the East Valley Tribune (Arizona), July 29, 2013
Arizona requires children to read “proficiently” by grade three. If they do not, they will be retained. East Valley's strategy to help children pass the grade three test is a greater emphasis on "fluency" training and testing ("East Valley teachers turn to 1-on-1 learning, reading groups," July 28).
There is an easier, more pleasant way to improve reading achievement.
First, studies show that there is nothing magic about third grade: Poor reading at any grade predicts poor reading later on. 
Second, research shows that students of all ages can make remarkable progress if they develop a reading habit. "Fluency" is the result of extensive reading for pleasure, not direct training. 
For many students, the only source of books is the library. Studies consistently show that better libraries, staffed with qualified librarians, are associated with higher reading scores.
We don’t need threatening and useless tests, and we don't need "fluency training." We need to improve our school libraries and support our librarians. 
Stephen Krashen
Some sources: 
“Nothing magic ..”: Krashen, S. 2011. Need children read “proficiently” by grade 3? Language Magazine 11,2: 24-27. 2011
Fluency the result: Goodman, K. 2006. The Truth about Dibels. Portsmouth: Heinemann
Students at all ages: Krashen, S. and McQuillan, J. 2007. Late intervention. Educational Leadership 65 (2): 68-73.
Better libraries ….: Krashen, S., Lee, SY., and McQuillan, J. 2012. Is the library important? Multivariate studies at the national and international level. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, 8(1): 26-36. Lance, Keith. The Impact of School Libraries on Student Achievement. http://www.lrs.org/impact.php

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Consider other ways of teaching (English as a foreign language)

Published in the Korea Times, July 31, 2013

The negative reactions to English class in Korea documented in "What English means for children," (July 22) are not limited to Korea, They are found everywhere in world where traditional methods are used, methods that are painful and not supported by any research. Educators in Korea might consider trying methods that are not only supported by decades of scientific studies, but are also much more pleasant for both students and teachers. 

Students in beginning level classes that utilize TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling) and other comprehension-based methods, and intermediate students in classes that include interesting subject matter and provide an opportunity for students to do self-selected reading in English, develop much better second language proficiency, and, most important, develop a positive attitude toward English language acquisition.

Many of the scholars investigating these more successful approaches are in Asia, including Prof. Kyung-Sook Cho of Busan National University of Education, who has published numerous studies documenting the positive effect of pleasure reading on English language development.

Stephen Krashen

original article: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2013/07/116_139689.html
this letter published at: http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/opinon/2013/08/161_140262.html

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

No proof technology boosts achievement (original title: Technology boondoggle)

Published in the Orlando Sentinel, July 25, 2013
Regarding the article "Common Core test costs: Less than current FCAT expenses, estimates show (but that doesn't include needed technology, other factors," July 22). 
The "needed technology" is the problem: It is a boondoggle that will never end – billions to make sure all students are connected to the internet with up-to-date computers, followed by billions for constant upgrading, billions for constant replacement of obsolete equipment, and billions more for the never-ending new technologies. Moreover, there is no evidence that the brave new technology is "needed," no evidence that it will result in better student achievement. 
Stephen Krashen

article: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/features/blogs/school-zone/os-common-core-test-costs-less-than-current-fcat-expenses-but-that-doesnt-include-needed-technology-est-20130722,0,1280700.post

Nonfiction Fever

Re: Nonfiction forms 'Core' of summer reading for kids (July 19).
Sent to the Journal News (Nyack, NY)

Nyack is pushing non-fiction for summer reading, the assumption being that non-fiction will better prepare students for the real world than fiction, described by one Nyack parent as "la-la" land.  There is no research at all supporting this position.  It is simply the opinion of the architects of the common core, a lawyer and an education entrepreneur with no teaching experience. 

In contrast, there are many studies showing the advantages of reading large amounts of self-selected fiction. The advantages include development of reading ability, writing style, grammar, vocabulary, spelling, as well as knowledge of the world, providing an excellent foundation for reading academic texts. 

My colleagues and I published a study of a high school student whose reading test scores declined during the academic year, but increased every summer. During the year, she did the kind of assigned reading that the common core recommends. During the summer, she read what she wanted to read, which was largely fiction.  

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Advantages: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heineman, Libraries Unlimited
Study: Lin, S-Y, Shin, F. and Krashen, S. 2007. Sophia’s Choice: Summer Reading. Knowledge Quest 4. 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pre-school testing may be going too far.

Published in The Times-Picayune (July 23, 2013)

Louisiana has decided that pre-school is "kindergarten prep"("Testing 3- and 4-year-olds is newest front in Louisiana school accountability," July 21): All pre-school classes will be monitored to make sure children learn their numbers and letters so that they are ready for the rigors of kindergarten. 

What's next, pre-school prep? Will we start monitoring parents to make sure their toddlers are ready for the rigors of pre-school? 

Stephen Krashen

Original article: http://www.nola.com/education/index.ssf/2013/07/testing_toddlers_is_newest_front_in_louisiana_school_accountability_campaign.html#incart_river

hat-tip: Diane Ravitch.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Great City Schools Report on ELLs: Three very short comments

The Great City Schools Report on ELLs: Three very short comments
S Krashen

1. "The results showed wide gaps in reading and mathematics between ELLs and non-ELLs."
Comment: If the results did not show gaps between ELLs and non-ELLs, the ELLs would not be ELLs. 
2. " ….  trend lines suggest that ELLs have not made meaningful progress academically between 2005 and 2011 …". 
Comment: We would not expect ELLs as a group to "improve"; when ELLs make sufficient progress, they are reclassified as non-ELL. The group average test score thus stays about the same. 
3. "The percentage of ELLs scoring at or above proficient in grade 4 reading in large cities remained stagnant from 2005 to 2011, with only about five to six percent scoring at or above proficient" (p. 73).
Comment: This means that five to six percent have been misclassified. A student who scores proficient or above should not be classified as ELL. 

From: English Language Learners in America’s Great City Schools: Demographics, Achievement, and Staffing (Council of the Great City Schools Washington, DC)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Children should not be allowed to behave like children.

Behaving like children
Sent to the Guardian, July 17, 2013

It's wonderful to know that children in England will be tested on entry to kindergarten, to make sure they are prepared for tests they will take at age 11 ("Five year olds could face national tests," July 16; "Primary school tests: Nick Clegg denies schools will be 'exam sausage factories'," July 17).
This will ensure that preschools will take firm steps to make sure that children are ready for the rigors of kindergarten, as well as encourage parents to follow strict, sequential standards in teaching their toddlers to count and develop pre-phonics skills to prepare them for preschool. 
The unfortunate tendency of children to want to play and enjoy themselves must stop, despite the claims of mushy-minded "experts" who claim that play improves "social and emotional development," whatever that is. 
Children should not be allowed to behave like children.

Stephen Krashen
President, Kindergarten Kalculus Association
Author of "Phonemic awareness training for prelinguistic children: Do we need prenatal PA?" Reading Improvement 35: 167-171, 1998

original articles:

Childhood's End

Published in the Minnesota Post, July 18, 2013

The Minnesota Post is clearly enthusiastic about increased federal funding for preschool ("Arne Duncan promotes Preschool for All to close 'opportunity gap'," July 16). Not mentioned, however, is the fact that to be funded, preschool programs have to include standards in language and literacy, and math and science, and that four-year old children will be tested regularly on their progress.

In other words, preschool is now school, with a curriculum and tests. In other words, Preschool for All is simply an extension of the common core standards and tests. There is no evidence supporting the common core for older students and there is no reason to impose it on four-year olds.

Stephen Krashen

Original article: http://www.minnpost.com/learning-curve/2013/07/arne-duncan-promotes-preschool-all-close-opportunity-gap

"States will be charged with monitoring these programs, determining their level of quality, making publicly available information about the quality of programs. States will be required to report data and information on these programs, including child outcome data and measures of quality." http://www.ed.gov/budget14/faqs/early-learning#q8
“Fact Sheet President Obama’s Plan for Early Education for all Americans,” at www.whitehouse.gov).
The Federal Register, (vol 78, #97, May 20, 2013), http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2013-05-20/pdf/2013-11821.pdf
"Infants, toddlers and preschoolers are expected in meet standards in 'language and literacy development,' 'cognition and general knowledge' (including early math and early scientific development)..."http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop-earlylearningchallenge/annual-performance-reports/mnfinalapr.pdf (p. 60)

Monday, July 15, 2013

The responsibility of the native speaker scholar

The responsibility of the native speaker scholar
Stephen Krashen

English has become the international language of scholarship.  In 1997, 95% of the articles cited in the Science Citation Index were in English, up from 83% in 1977 (Garfied, 1998; Van Leeuwen, Moed, Tussen, Visser, and Van Raan, 2001), and universities in non-English speaking countries often require that faculty members publish in English (e.g. Curry, 2001).

This places a termendous burden on nonnative speakers of English attempting to publish in English.  It is imperative that we do something about this, otherwise the wisdom and contributions of many nonnative speakers will be lost to us.

Many nonnative scholars have acquired an enormous vocabulary and a mastery of much of the academic style through voluminous extensive reading, but there are a number of late-acquired aspects of academic language that many have not fully acquired. These aspects of language are often cosmetic, not contributing to meaning, but editors and reviewers might be very sensitive to them.

A suggestion

Those of us who are native speakers should take some responsibility in helping nonnative English speaking colleagues prepare research papers for publication. Nonnative speakers can often appeal to local native speakers of English to proof-read their work, but such helpers rarely have a knowledge of the discipline and its particular writing style. It is up to us, those of us familiar with both, to help.

I suggest that each of us partner with at least one colleague, a colleague whose work is relevant to and contributes to our own, and volunteer our services for a limited amount of editing, perhaps three to five pages per month.  

We must pay a price for the advantage of being a native speaker of a language that has become the international language of scholarship.

Two suggestions for making the task easier.

Shorter papers: Many (not all) professional research papers are much longer than they need to be. Introductions need to be shorter, only necessary citations included, and discussion sections should be briefer, not repeating, what has already been stated in the paper (Krashen, 2012a). Many papers are written more in dissertation than journal style. 

Eliminate jibberish: Alfie Kohn has pointed out that:“Some scholars have slipped so far into the stylized talk – excuse me, discourse – of academia that important ideas are rendered virtually incomprehensible to most people. Because it sometimes seems that scholarship is valued by other academics in direct proportion to its inaccessibility, some individuals may have an instinctive aversion to writing in simple sentences even if they could remember how to do so.” (Aflie Kohn, 2003; Professors who profess. http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/professing.htm)

The danger of jibberish is the difficulty of finding relevant information in articles (Krashen, 2012b). Nonnative speakers, as well as the rest of us, find them nearly impossible to read, and, of course to write. Plain, direct language, and papers that are as short as possible, will mean mean less inauthentic work and more authentic work for writers, readers, and, of course, those of us who act as volunteer editors.

Not ready for editing

Some of our colleagues may not be ready for our help, and first need to read more academic papers in English: The kind of service I am recommending is late-stage editing, making sure that the cosmetic aspects of academic English are taken care of.

Private services

A current solution is the use of paid consultants, private companies that offer editing services.  The problems with this solution include the fact consultants are not always familiar with the academic style of the writer's area, and the fact that these services are not available to everyone,

Even when they are available, it is often up to the scholar to pay for them, which is difficult given the very modest salaries in many research institution.


Coury, J. 2001. English as a lingua franca in the Brazilian academic community. http://www3.telus.net/linguisticsissues/linguafranca.htm
Krashen, S. 2012a. Academic jibberish. RELC Journal. 43 (2): 283-285.
Krashen, S. 2012b. A short paper proposing that we need to write shorter papers. Language and Language Teacher (Azim Premji University). 1(2): 38-39.
van Leeuwnen, T., Moed, H., Tussen, R., Visser, M. and van Raan, A. 2001. Language biases in the coverage of the Science Citation Index and its consequences for international comparisons of national research performance. Scientmetrics 51(1): 335-346.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The brave new untested technology

Published in Los Angeles Daily News, July 17, 2013

What if tablets don't raise student achievement?
Re "LAUSD approves $50M for computer tablets" (July 12):
There is no evidence that tablets and wireless networks will improve student achievement in Los Angeles Unified. Taxpayers are funding an untested idea. By the time we know whether the brave new technology helps, the computer industry will be much wealthier and schools much poorer. And if it doesn't help, teachers will be blamed and the so-called reformers will call for more technology.
-- Stephen Krashen

original article: http://www.dailynews.com/news/ci_22577480/lausd-approves-50m-computer-tablets