Ten people contributed opinions on vocabulary development in Larry Ferlazzo’s recent blog on “Many Ways To Help Students Develop Academic Vocabulary” (Ed Week, March 17; http://tinyurl.com/ctesagq).
There is massive research from many different kinds of research showing that reading is a powerful source of vocabulary knowledge, most likely the most powerful source. Also a number writers in the professional literature present evidence showing that direct instruction of vocabulary can have only a limited effect.
Nevertheless, only one contributor to Ferlazzo’s blog mentioned reading. In a tweet, SaroltaGV wrote: “Students develop their academic vocabulary best by reading academic texts on topics they are interested in.”
Why this allergy to reading? - LM_Net post by Stephen Krashen
I, like Dr. Krashen, am a huge fan of free voluntary reading (FVR). I truly believe reading, lots of reading, is the best, if not only, way to increase vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency. Krashen's book, The Power of Reading, is one of those absolutely essential texts every caring educator should read and take to heart. (My review and implications for librarians here.)
So why don't more "consultants" buy into the efficacy of FVR?
- FVR doesn't really require specialists or reading experts - just teachers willing to trust kids and give them access to good reading materials. We all know, the bigger the education ju-ju, the bigger the paycheck for the magician.
- FVR requires a good library collection which is not new or sexy, just effective.
- FVR doesn't require high-priced software running on high priced hardware, no costly reading textbooks and workbooks.
- FVR doesn't make learning painful and we all know - no pain, no gain.
- FVR just sounds too good to be true.
- FVR allows kids to grow and learn at their own pace rather than in at an prescribed, normed rate that produces the winners and losers that our society seems to demand.
- FVR means kids reading things that adults may not know or find personally appealing.
- Kids engaged in FVR look like they are slacking off instead of "working."
Kids who read, get better at reading. Kids will read when they can read stuff that interests them and is at their level. Kids not only read better, but read for intrinsic, rather extrinsic rewards and thus become life-long readers.
I know this. If I had to read on a computer monitor, if I had to answer a multiple guess test after every paragraph I read, if I had to memorize vocabulary words - I just might play computer games instead reading for fun too...
Grandson Paul the Reader.