Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Stephen D. Krashen's The Power of Reading - An Invaluable Resource for Youth Librarians!!

All I can say is wow.

So, I just finished The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research by Stephen D. Krashen.  In my previous classes, I heard many accolades for the book, and now I can absolutely understand why. Strikingly genius in its simplicity, Krashen compiles research from hundreds of studies all in support of free voluntary reading or FVR.  Effectively, Krashen has proven that FVR, or reading simply for the purposes of intrinsic enjoyment, entails the best way for students to amass a multitude of skills including reading comprehension, vocabulary acquisition, spelling improvement, and overall increased literacy and command of language.  He argues that FVR leads to greater gains in language and literacy development than direct instruction focusing upon teaching phonics and phonetic awareness.

If you really think about, Krashen's theory totally makes sense.  The only way to grow as a reader and to hone those invaluable oral and written communication skills is through the act of reading, compounded with even more reading, and then to read, read, read some more.  However, if educators and librarians are forcing prescribed reading material upon students, or are turning reading into a chore through requiring them to answer complicated questions and take tests, then chances are that the students will be reluctant to tap into the profound power of reading. 

In terms of how youth librarians can best utilize this knowledge to advocate for their libraries and programs, I wholeheartedly believe that Krashen's work strikes a special chord with school librarians.  To clarify, school librarians can easily turn to the book and pull out solid evidence to clearly justify their worth (sadly, it seems like librarians and perhaps especially school librarians are forced to prove their value now more than ever).  Indeed, this evidence is inclusive of the fact that first and foremost children will read more when they have greater access to compelling reading materials.  It follows suit that in order to create these reading havens, well-stocked with quality reading materials, we need school librarians for their selecting and promoting expertise.  According to Krashen, the quality of the library with regard to books and staffing positively correlates with reading achievement. Furthermore, research has shown the school libraries staffed with professional librarians also corresponds to gains in reading prowess.

In my opinion, it is up to school librarians to embrace this research and to share it with teachers, administrators, and parents.  It is evident that we are all living in a culture of assessment, so having comprehensible, unambiguous proof at our fingertips that quality school libraries are a direct link to improving testing scores remains an inestimable weapon in our arsenal. Reading is clearly a self-fulfilling prophesy; in actuality, it is an organic process that gives rise to its own reward.  Furthermore, it only takes that one unforgettable reading experience, that one "home run book," as Krashen calls it, to create a lifelong reader.  Youth librarians take note - The Power of Reading, might just be a "home run book" in its own right.

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