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Allergic to reading? 

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;

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.

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Reader Comments (5)

"...if I had to answer a multiple guess test after..."

I've have yet to buy into Accelerated Reader while many school libraries have built their entire collection around it. Sure would be interested in your opinion of the AR program.

March 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBob Follmuth

Spot on Doug. I remember my favourite time in primary school was when I escaped from the reading scheme book and was allowed to read the book I had chosen myself from the ones in the library. In fact my best day was when myself and another pupil manned the phone (singular -it was 1969) due to staff illness and we settled down in the school office with a stack of books. I read 4 books - about 800 pages in total. Yes we were slacking off, but we were only 10. Both my sons hated the reading scheme books, preferring their own choices. However we were expected to sit and hear them read every night, mainly the adventures of Biff, Chip and other assorted dreadful characters. Personally I have even used the sports pages to teach one of my pupils, him and his dad loved reading about their favourite sports team -together- yet such is the snobbery in some circles that this would be seen as somehow wrong.

March 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Hi Bob,

From my column, Creating Fat Kids Who Don't Like to Read (1999):

... some reasonable guidelines for using reading motivation programs like Accelerated Reader: As a media specialist, I would ask myself:

Does my reading promotion program stress personal accomplishment and individual accomplishment? Do students have the ability to set their own reading goals? Can students at a variety of reading levels and abilities meet target goals or will only the very best readers be recognized? Are only set percentage of students recognized for their accomplishments or will all students who reach a goal be acknowledged?

Does my reading promotion program set goals that promote collaborative work? Are only individuals recognized for the amounts they have read, or can small groups or classes collaborate?

Is my reading promotion program only part of my total reading program? Do I still emphasize books, magazines and other reading materials that may not “count” in the promotional reading program? Are my students also reading books because of hearing exciting booktalks, listening to enthusiastic peer recommendations, and being given well-constructed classroom bibliographies tied to content areas?

Is my reading promotion program available to my students for only a limited duration during the school year? Do my students get the chance to read for the sake of reading after the promotion is over, to really experience the true, intrinsic rewards that come from being lost in a story or learning interesting facts? Have I tried to determine whether my program really leads to life-long reading behaviors?

Does my reading promotion program stay away from material rewards like food, stickers, or parties? Are students or groups recognized for meeting their goals through public announcements and certificates? If I have to give out some physical reward, is it at least a book? (Or low-fat, sugar-free!)

Still hold up after all these years?


Hi Steve,

One of my grandsons called the scheme reading books "little bunny books" which as a Star Wars. Lego, Captain Underpants, etc. fan he was highly insulted by. I know exactly where you are coming from.


March 22, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Nive information!!!!!

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDentist in nagpur

Thank you for being me a part of your blog!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

March 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterjames anderson

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