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

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Access to books is not always enough: An example from Gate C-5

Access to books is not always enough: An example from Gate C-5
Published as: Airport Amenities, Taipei Times, September 19, 2012

As a researcher who has investigated the role of self-selected leisure reading for the past three decades, I was, at first, very happy to see that there is a reading zone at the Taipei airport (at Gate C-5, Eva Airlines).

Our research has concluded that leisure reading has a powerful effect on both first and second-language development: Those who read a great deal on their own develop large vocabularies, good writing style, better grammar, and learn a lot about a wide variety of topics. The reading zone at C-5 seems to be a strong endorsement of pleasure reading.

My inspection of the area on two occasions, about 10 days apart, showed, however, that nobody sitting in the area was reading any of the books displayed.

I noticed that the waiting passengers were not sitting around bored. They had their own reading material, were talking, or were busy with their computers.

My concern is that the lack of interest in the reading zone (admittedly based on two brief observations) will be interpreted as a lack of interest in reading.
This is not the correct interpretation. There are good reasons why waiting passengers were not reading the material displayed.

About 99 percent of what was displayed were books, and most were novels. There were very few magazines. Reading zone users are not allowed to take books out of the reading zone area: They have to be returned. Travelers waiting for a flight are not going to start reading a novel that they certainly cannot finish during the typical waiting period.

Taipei airport should keep the reading zone, but include more “quick reads,” especially magazines. Passengers should be allowed to borrow books and return them at their destination.

Travelers about to get on long flights who forgot to pack a book will be grateful. And publishers might want to donate the opening chapter of some of their newest books, especially books available in airport bookstores at the passengers’ destination.

Stephen Krashen
Professor emeritus,
University of Southern California


  1. Let's encourage a book-swap as well. People who have completed a lengthy flight (4 hours or more?) may well have finished one book and be willing to trade it in for another. Of course, this affects the books sales down the hall...

  2. I would just require that all video content be subtitled (english). SSW - sustained silent watching. It would be used (watched) and you'd gain a lot by combining listening and reading into an extensive watching approach. This is the way to go - it is not just access but the kinds of media that are being promoted, that is the problem. We are moving towards a world where the visual form dominates just text. We better move with it.