Sent to the San Jose Mercury News, December 7, 2012
California’s low performance on the NAEP vocabulary test is no surprise (“California eighth-grade students score fifth from bottom in national vocabulary tests,” December 6, 2012).
Research done over the last few decades, published in numerous scholarly books and scientific journal papers has informed us that advanced vocabulary knowledge is a result of reading, especially self-selected reading that young people are genuinely interested in reading. Research also tells us that young people read more when they have access to interesting reading material.
California has consistently ranked at or near the bottom of the country in support for both school and public libraries, the major source of reading material for many students, especially those living in poverty. In the America’s Most Literate Cities report, California cities captured six of the bottom seven places out of 75 cities in library quality, with Los Angeles placing 70th.
Research also informs us that the presence of credentialed librarians in school libraries has a positive effect on reading achievement: California has consistently had the lowest ratio of librarian to student of all states.
The cure for California’s vocabulary performance is not increased instruction in vocabulary: the cure is to invest more in libraries and librarians.
America’s most literate cities: http://www.ccsu.edu/page.cfm?p=8153
Vocabulary Results from the 2009 and 2011 NAEP Reading Assessments
School libraries, librarians, access to reading material: Krashen, S. 2004. The Power of Reading. Portsmouth: Heinemann and Westport: Libraries Unlimited.
Original article: California eighth-grade students score fifth from bottom in national vocabulary tests