BFTP: Soft bigotry of low expectations in reading

In contrast, Kim (2004) estimated that just reading five books over the summer results in a gain of about three percentiles, about the same as the huge investment required by Read 180. Stephen Krashen

I was struck once again when reading Scholastic's School Libraries Work, 2016 Edition just how unjust reading instruction can be in too many schools. In study after study, quality library programs lead by progressive librarians build reading skills by getting kids to read. This is not exactly news. One of my heroes, Stephen Krashen, has been linking free voluntary reading to improved reading scores since the early 90s.

So when schools start to spend vast sums of money on computerized reading "systems" and under fund school libraries and cut professional library staff, I worry. Do these expensive "read the text on the screen, take the quiz, advance to the next level" programs improve test scores? Results are mixed. But let's assume that programs like Read 180 provide effective intervention for struggling readers and really do improve reading abilities as measure on state tests. Fantastic - we as educators can now say "job well done" and pat ourselves on the back.

If simply the ability to read is the ultimate goal of our schools.

Personally, making reading ability not reading attitude the sole measure of success for students is the very definition of "soft bigotry of low expectations." As Mark Twain once observed, "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them." My goal as a librarian and teacher has always been to create "life-long critical readers." Citizens who not only can read, but do read.

  • Out of love of the act.
  • Out of a need to know the truth.
  • Out of the need to view the world through the eyes and souls of others.
  • Out of the need to be changed by what one reads.

Do we spend so much time getting students, especially struggling readers, to pass tests that we actually kill their enjoyment of reading? Solving illiteracy but creating masses of the alliterate.

Think twice before you put a child in front a computer to learn how to read instead putting that child in the hands of a caring librarian who uses just the right book.

Original post 3/28/16

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