"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Friday, December 10, 2010

Children of poverty and access to books

Children of poverty and access to books

Sent to the Guardian, UK, Dec. 10, 2010

American scores on an international test of reading (the PISA) show exactly the same thing that UK scores show: Children of poverty don't read very well ("Half of pupils on free school meals can't read," Dec. 10). American students in schools with few children of poverty scored near the top of the world, those in schools with mostly high poverty children scored near the bottom of all countries tested.

Similar to the UK results, our research also shows that middle class English language learners often do better on reading tests than children of poverty who speak English as a first language.

The research tells us why: Studies done world-wide show that high poverty means less access to books at home, in school and in the community. This results in less reading, and less reading means lower performance on reading tests.

A necessary part of the solution: More support for libraries and librarians in high poverty areas.

Stephen Krashen


Krashen, S. and Brown, C.L. 2005. The ameliorating effects of high socioeconomic status: A secondary analysis. Bilingual Research Journal 29(1): 185-196.

Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Heinemann Publishing Company and Libraries Unlimited.


Half of pupils on free school meals can't read By Richard Garner, Education Editor

The Independent Friday, 10 December 2010

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Nearly half the 11-year-olds on free school meals cannot read or add up properly by the time they leave primary school, according to figures released yesterday.

Children on free school meals are far less likely to reach the required standard in national curriculum tests than those for whom English is a second language. A breakdown of this year's test results revealed that 55.8 per cent of those on free school meals reached the required standard in both maths and English compared with 69.1 per cent of those with English as a foreign language.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that a key reason could be that many of those from ethnic minority backgrounds came from cultures that valued education more.

"These figures reveal that our education system is letting down half of all 10 and 11-year-old boys who qualify for free school meals," said Schools minister Nick Gibb.

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