Thursday, March 30, 2017

Libraries and librarians: What does the research say?

Published in the Chicago Tribune, March 31, 2017

Sam Weller's strong defense of libraries includes this statement:  "District superintendents, senior administrators and bean counters with the ability to slash jobs apparently don't get it."  (“Without school librarians, we’re on a dystopian path.” March 30.)

The bean counters and administrators should be the first ones to understand the value of school libraries and librarians: Study after study has shown that better school libraries and the presence of credential school librarians are related to better reading achievement, as measured by standardized tests.  Keith Curry Lance's research has shown this for several states in the US, and our research term has confirmed his results for libraries in over 40 different countries.

Isaac Asimov was right in 1995 and his insight is still valid: "When I read about the way in which library funds are being cut and cut, I can only think that American society has found one more way to destroy itself."

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Krashen, S., Lee, S.Y. 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.
Studies by Keith Curry Lance and associates at
Asimov Quote: Asimov, I. (1995) I, Asimov. Random House.
Original article:

Hat-tip: Hilda Weisburg

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

language acquisition from input

Sent to The Scientific American
March 29, 2017

I was very excited to read Veronique Greenwood's "Learn a new lingo while doing something else," describing research showing that listening makes a profound contribution to the learning of speech sounds.

Scientific American readers might be interested in knowing that we have been publishing evidence for the last 40 years showing that first and second language acquisition, as well as literacy development, takes place through listening and reading (input): The ability to speak and write is a result of language acquisition. In agreement with the studies described by Ms. Greenwood, we have found that that language acquisition happens subconsciously. 

Those of us involved in research probably spend too much time scolding others for not paying attention to our results.  Professor Melissa Baese-Berk and her colleagues, who did the accent studies, have every reason now to scold me and my associates for not discovering and citing their work.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

Website, with publications (free download):
Original article:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Krashen Santa Fe 3: Fiction, heritage language

The power of fiction: The UK study
Fiction = great vocabulary builder
Sullivan and Brown, 2014: vocabulary test
1. Reading at age 42 counts, independent of reading at 16 or younger & previous vocabulary.
2. Fiction counts  (more than nonfiction), but not "low-brow"
3. Music counts a little. Reading counts more.
4. Reading counts even when you control for parent occupation and parent education.
5. Reading counts more than your own education AND is independent of your educational level
Sullivan, A. & Brown, M. 2014. Vocabulary from Adolescence to Middle Age. Centre for Longitudinal Studies, University of London

Those who read more, know more. Readers (of fiction) do better on tests of literature, history, cultural literacy, but also SCIENCE, SOCIAL STUDIES and PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE. (Stanovich and colleagues).

Fiction stretches, challenges the mind.
1.      Fiction contributes to an expanded "theory of mind" = understand others' states of mind, ways of thinking, compared to nonfiction. (Kidd & Castono)  
2.      Fiction readers have more tolerance for vagueness, better able to deal with uncertaincy (Djikic,  Oatley, and Moldoveanu,  2013). Based on survey done after reading fiction or nonfiction, eg agree/disagree with: “I don’t like situations that are uncertain," “I dislike questions that can be answered in many different ways.”
3.      Ethics and insight: Peter Parker, The Spectacular Spider-Man,  (102), 5/1995,  "You think because I wear this mask I don't know what it's like to have problems?"  also: Batman Returns, The Watchmen
4.      Career success
Simonton (1988) "omnivorous reading in childhood and adolescence correlates positively with ultimate adult success" (p. 11). 
Malcolm X:  ‘What’s your alma mater?’
Michael Faraday (1791-1867): influence of working for a bookbinder for 7 years.

Heritage language development
1.    Popular view: people resist English
2.    The facts: The first language disappears rapidly

Language Use: Spanish-speaking high school students in Miami: Use of Spanish
Prior to elementary school: 85%
Junion High school: 37%
Sr High School: 18%
Informal use during senior year
Parents: 76%
Siblings: 32%
Friends in school: 20%

Portes and Rumbaut, 2001: age 14
Competence in HL and English, 1 = not at all, 4 = very well
Overall English = 3.77,,, HL = 2.75  (n = 4288)
China    English = 3.54,   HL = 2.23
Vietnam  English = 3.42,  HL = 2.54
Mexico    English = 3.62,  HL = 3.33

       3. Should we be concerned? Yes. No disadvantages, only advantages to heritage language development - advantages
a.     bilinguals are smarter, and stay young longer (delays dementia)
b.    access to the wisdom of the family
c.     practical: It's good to know your customers' language
4.    Barriers to HL development
language shyness resulting from ridicule: Tse = ethnic ambivalence
cure: reading! Perfect for shy people
not the cure: take a grammar class
problem: lack of access to comprehensible input
Tse: Those who kept their HL had access to reading material
       5. Teaching heritage language classes.
a. popular literature = goal – establish reading habit
b. history and culture using the Book Whisperer method
       6. Taking advantage of the oral tradition: video library
            a. task of the HL class: create video library: history, wisdom, experiences of the family
            b. build competence through aural/visual input:  narrow, compelling input
                  movie talk/picture – comic book talk/
                  stories, jokes, regular report of the news
                  interviews, questions of personal interest

Krashen Santa Fe 2: some reseaerch, intermediate methods


Role of the class: The role of the class: DEVELOP INTERMEDIATES
Class is ideal for beginners!  Outside world reluctant to provide comprehensible input to beginners.
A universal theory of education: Prepare you for the outside world.

Beginning level:
TPR: Total Physical Response (Asher): Website:
Natural Approach (Terrell)
TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling; Blaine Ray) Websites:;;
Storylistening (

Underlying principles
class: filled with comprehensible input
organized, but not around points of grammar: activities that students will find comprehensible & interesting (compelling)
speech not forced but encouraged (indirect contribution)
grammar: not for children, as linguistics, for editing

Research: CI wins in method comparisons

The Power of Stories
I. power of read-alouds, without frills:
A.    children read to regularly make superior gains in reading comprehension, vocabulary, listening comprehension (Bus, Van Ijzendoorn, Marinus, and Pellegrini 1995; Block 1999; Denton and West, 2002).
Reach out and Read: in clinic waiting rooms in high poverty areas. free book; very modest treatment, staff demonstrates in waiting room, physician gives a book
Typical results: Mendelsohn et. al. age 4, 3 years of ROR; average of (only) three appointments, avg of 4 books received, vocabulary acquisition

national norm
% gap closed
Means adjusted for differences between the groups, e.g. mother's education, language spoken in the home, homelessness, preschool attendance, child's age.
Comparison n = 49; ROR = 73; Test scores standardized for age (100 = 50th percentile).

B. Read-alouds are pleasant: Vast majority of children say that they enjoy being read to (Walker and Kuerbtiz, 1979; Mason and Blanton, 1971; Wells, 1985; Senechal et. al. 1996.).
C. Encourages reading, which in turn promotes literacy development. The title of Brassell’s paper:“Sixteen books went home tonight: Fifteen were introduced by the teacher.”

Comprehnsion-based second.foreign language teachimg methods
Communicative tests: CI much better.  Grammar tests: CI better or no diff.

Isik (2000: ITL: Rev of Applied Linguistics) High school EFL in Turkey, intermediates; 29 hours per week, 36 weeks:
CI = Communication-based, minimal correction, graded readers, 75% CI, 25% grammar.
Grammar = 24 hrs/week form-based, 20% CI, 80% grammar

comprehensible input
Oxford grammar test
67.6 (5.0)
45.6 (9.6)
22.25 (1.07)
14.5 (4.26)
Listening compr.
24.9 (2.29)
17.5 (3.3)
19.4 (2.6)
7.5 (3.3)

The rise of TPRS (Blaine Ray) -  stories, personalization, graded readers
Varguez (2009:  Beginning Spanish in high school in US
TPRS significantly better than comparisons (t = 10.56, p < .0001).
Low SES TPRS class =comparisons. (Had TPRS teacher for part of year)
mean (sd)
32 (4.7)
22.3 (38.2)
23.45 (21.2)
Measure: combination of listening and reading

Comprehension-based methods have never lost Posted at:
Also: Students in CI-based classes more likely to continue.

Limit: only “conversational language,” not “academic language”

Intermediate methods: 
Sheltered subject matter teaching: based on comprehensible input
Characteristics: (1) intermediates only (2) focus on subject-matter, not language (If a test, the test is on subject matter)/
Research: When compared to intermediate foreign language classes: (1) as much or more language development (2) subject matter knowledge at the same time (3) academic language acquisition
The first one: Edwards, H., Wesche, M., Krashen, S., Clement, R., and Kruidenier, B. 1984. Second language acquisition through a subject-matter learning: A study of sheltered psychology classes at the University of Ottawa. Canadian Modern Language Review 41: 268-282.

THE POWER OF READING: Free Voluntary Reading: source of reading ability, writing style, vocabulary, spelling, complex grammar

Overwhelming case for reading:
Sustained silent reading (SSR)

The Fiji Island study (RRQ, 1983): Elley & Mangubhai: gains in RC
Big Books
year 2: larger differences, readers better in writing, listening and grammar

Case histories:
Goeffrey Canada: "I loved reading, and my mother, who read voraciously too, allowed me to have her novels after she finished them. My strong reading background allowed me to have an easier time of it in most of my classes."
Liz Murray (Breaking Night):  "Any formal education I received came from the few days I spent in attendance, mixed with knowledge I absorbed from random readings of my or Daddy's ever-growing supply of unreturned library books. And as long as I still showed up steadily the last few weeks of classes to take the standardized tests, I kept squeaking by from grade to grade."
Desmond Tutu: “One of the things I am most grateful to (my father) for is that, contrary to educational principles, he allowed me to read comics. I think that is how I developed my love for English and for reading.” 
Richard Wright: “I wanted to write and I did not even know the English language. I bought English grammars and found them dull. I felt I was getting a better sense of the language from novels than from grammars."

Encouraging FVR:  Read alouds, reading itself, home run books, literature
The major factor: ACCESS! LIBRARIES!

Krashen Santa Fe 1: fundamentals

S. Krashen; twitter = skrashen

The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis:
ACQUISITION – subconscious = "picking up" a language - While it is happening, we are not aware that it is happening.
- Once we have acquired something, we are not usually aware that anything has happened; knowledge stored in our brains subconsciously.
The language acquisition device never shuts off.
Acquisition - What the brain does well.

LEARNING – conscious = "rules", "grammar": What we did in school.
Error correction helps learning. When we make a mistake and are corrected, we are supposed to change our conscious version of the rule.
Learning – What the brain does poorly.

The Monitor Hypothesis: Consciously learned language only available as Monitor, or editor - before we say/write something or after.
Conditions (severe) for Monitor use:  (1) Know the rule; (2) Think about correctness (focus on form) (3) Time.
Monitor weak but not useless:  In editing stage of composing process: e.g. it's/its, lie/lay (language change?)

The Comprehension Hypothesis: We acquire language when we understand messages.
AMAZING FACTS acquisition is (1) Effortless (2)  Involuntary

Corollary of the Comprehension Hypothesis:  Talking is not Practicing.
1) we acquire language by input, not output: more output does not result in more language acquisition
2) ability to speak: the RESULT of language acquisition
3) correction? (real cure: More comprehensible input. Accuracy emerges.

The Affective Filter Hypothesis: Affective variables prevent input from reaching the “Language Acquisition Device”
Affective variables: motivation, anxiety, self-esteem
FILTER (block) prevents input from reaching Language Acquisition Device.

COMPELLING comprehensible input: so interesting you forget it is in a second language. You are in FLOW.
The case of "Paul": Lao, C. and Krashen, S. 2014. Language acquisition without speaking and without study.  Journal of Bilingual Education Research and Instruction  16(1): 215-221.(, "langage acquisition")

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Read because you want to: Santa Monica Daily Press

Published in the Santa Monica Daily Press (California), March 22 2017
"Literacy at the Library" (March 18) tells us that the Santa Monica Public Library offers a truly astonishing menu of programs and services: tutoring, story-time, classes, films, etc. 
Buried deep in the article is the library's most valuable contribution: Books for pleasure reading. In hundreds of scientific reports, our research over the last 40 years has confirmed that recreational reading, or "reading because you want to" is by far the best way to improve reading ability, writing ability, vocabulary, grammar, and even spelling.  Research also shows that those who do more pleasure reading know more about history, and science, and even have more practical knowledge.
Contrary to the recent push for nonfiction in the schools, researchers from the UK recently reported that reading fiction was a better predictor of vocabulary size than reading non-fiction, and that reading at any age boosts vocabulary knowledge.
All the programs offered by the library are valuable, but it needs to be emphasized that the Santa Monica Library has a very good book collection.  For many families with limited means, the library is the only source of reading material. 
Stephen Krashen

Member, Santa Monica Public Library
Member, The American Library Association
Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California
Author of The Power of Reading (2004, second edition), Free Voluntary Reading (2011), both published by Libraries Unlimited.
original article:
this letter: