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StephenKrashenFocus of Interview:

Poverty and the impact that has on struggling readers

Main Questions:

  1. I understand that you have some news, a major breakthrough and can you give us a little idea on what’s going on?
  2. let’s talk about poverty and the impact that has on struggling readers. So what… mostly teachers are listening to this and a lot of teachers work with kids that are in poverty and what are some of the implications that connect to kids that specifically struggle with reading. What are some of the issues, what are some of the obstacles?
  3. tell me a little bit more about what the connection with libraries and who was it that you said that you’ve done some research with?

Transcript (by Melanie)

Mike McQueen:

Greetings everyone! I’m Mike McQueen your friendly teacher-librarian. We’re here today talking with Dr. Stephen Krashen. Dr. Stephen are you with us?

 Stephen Krashen:

I am with you.

 Mike McQueen:

All right Stephen. I understand that you have some news, a major breakthrough and can you give us a little idea on what’s going on?

Stephen Krashen:

I’ll tell you all about the breakthrough. It doesn’t have to do with children; it has to do originally with grownups. In fact it has to do with people like me who are very old. I just turned seventy, can you believe that? People tell me that I only look 68 but I still…I’m getting there. As I’m getting older, I’m getting more concerned about dementia and senility because it runs through my family, on my dad’s side. And it skips around the middle seventies so I decided I better prepare for it. So I started doing research on it and got so excited about the research I publishes a paper on it and take of it on my website, www.sdkrashen.com operators are standing by and the…

 And we’ve isolated, people have isolated three elements that delay dementia and think that might even reverse part of it. The three elements are these: #1 Bilingualism. Isn’t that neat? People who are bilingual when they are young, who switch back and forth among their languages or between their languages don’t develop dementia years after other people do. Their development is delayed, and the particular aspect of bilingualism that it affects is your ability to not be distracted. It’s called Executive Control, like you get up in the morning, you get downstairs and you’re going to get the newspaper and you’re walking through the kitchen, you see a towel on the floor, you put it in the dirty clothes. You see a dish, you put that away, you’ve got five to put away, and you forget why you came down there in the first place. Well it seems that bilingualism will help you with that. We all get distracted, what was I talking about right?

 But it seems to delay it or make it not so bad. The second one is reading, and there’s a particular kind of reading that’s not reading non-sentence syllables, it’s not having a paragraph and answering the questions, it’s free voluntary reading, reading for pleasure. People my age who are reading for pleasure have about the same verbal memory as a person in their 30s who doesn’t read very much. So that’s number 2. And the third one, most relevant to me right now is, can you believe this? Coffee.

 Mike McQueen:

You’re kidding?

 Stephen Krashen:

Three cups a day of warm made coffee seems to correlate. There are several studies that show this. I’ve listed them all in the paper I wrote. Three cups of coffee seems to delay dementia for both genders, and there’s some evidence, this is the extrapolated test results from Mysner, saying it might be true [inaudible 03:06] more research is needed; that it might reverse Alzheimer’s. is that amazing or…?

 Mike McQueen:

Are you kidding me?

 Stephen Krashen:

Not kidding. This is absolutely true. [inaudible 03:19] is doing well in the research in the last two years. It seems to be good for just about everything except maybe acid reflux, [inaudible 03:26] on that one. Taking coffee 6 cups might reduce your chances of getting serious prostate cancer. Seems to be good for the liver, it even prevents tooth decay although it may make your teeth look funny but basically very, very good. So the great thing about all three of these things is that you can do all three at once. So if you sit back, relax and read a book in another language and drink coffee at the same time, it is the fountain of youth. Isn’t that wonderful?

Mike McQueen:

That is just interesting.

 Stephen Krashen:

By the way [inaudible 03:57] one of mine, recommended that I write to Starbucks and tell them about this. Yeah I think they might enjoy seeing that, if you know on the Starbucks cup there are these little messages, words of wisdom like Save the Environment and all these, and I think maybe they’d catch on and put in bilingualism and reading for pleasure, you know, words of reason and all that and as well as coffee. And so I wrote them. I said I got this paper, would you like to see it. And then they wrote back, “I’m sorry, we’re not interested in new commercial ventures at this time,” case of [inaudible 04:32] dementia I think. I wrote them back and said, “No, no. No money involved. I’m giving you the paper. Do you want it?” They never responded. So that was kind of a disappointment. But it’s out there; it’s being translated to Chinese at this moment. Someone in Hong Kong who wants it which is a great to start as far as I’m concerned. So that’s the latest. And you know those three factors: Bilingualism, Literacy and Good Nutrition are really the foundation of everything that we’ve been working on. So it is true with little kids, what we want with our little kids are, for ESL students we want a good foundation in the first language, bilingualism; we want lots of literacy and we want good, good food, you know put in a lot of nutrition and access to books. What we need in the work place, all three in fact coffee breaks are written in every work contract. It’s good for your career; it’s good for your brain and everything. So it’s a lifetime solution I think. So that’s what’s new.

 Mike McQueen:

Now it’s interesting because I did some extensive, I did some research about you and I know that you’ve been, you have over 300 published books and articles and…

 Stephen Krashen:

423 [inaudible 05:45] and counting.

 Mike McQueen:

423…wow! That, you know I mean anyone who has listened to this don’t really know you too well. May not, you know may wonder “what is this guy talking about.” But you are well research and you know your stuff and that really gives credibility to what…

 Stephen Krashen:

I know what. Maybe you can say that, I don’t know about the others.

 Mike McQueen:

Well, that’s great. Well let’s talk about poverty and the impact that has on struggling readers. So what… mostly teachers are listening to this and a lot of teachers work with kids that are in poverty and what are some of the implications that connect to kids that specifically struggle with reading. What are some of the issues, what are some of the obstacles?

 Stephen Krashen:

Let me give you a running start on this question because there is a major, major disagreement about poverty today that it’s really in a sense it’s a good disagreement and I hope it could clarify things that’s hurting a lot of kids. Right now the US Government, this is the Obama administration in education. I should say in advance that I have a Barrack Obama pumper sticker on my car, it’s in Hebrew so I delivered Jewish vote, so I figure he owes me. Nevertheless, the Obama education administration…I also have an Arnie Duncan Needs Improvement sticker on my car. The US Department of Education, it has been a disaster. They’ve been worse than the Bush administration if you can imagine that. It’s been absolutely terrible in education. Their interview on poverty is this. [inaudible 07:26] on her own. They say, “The way that they recognize poverty exists.  You can’t deny it

 Our rate of child poverty right now in the United States is over 21 percent which is the highest of any industrialized country. And it’s actually been increasing, okay? They think the way that they could get rid of poverty is through education. So if we pump up the educational system, and their way of pumping up is to install standards and tests, and that will take care of poverty; that these kids will come out and they’ll all be able to do differential equations and they can read Beowulf and they can do all those stuff and they’ll go out and become entrepreneurs and create new industries and compete with the Chinese, this seems to be a mantra, and eventually we’ll work our way out of poverty. Overwhelming evidence is that the action does the other way.  The direction is reversed. Yeah it’s true; if you get more education you’ll be qualified for a better job. But the job has to exist. And the problem is that the jobs don’t exist. (???)

 They don’t even exist in technology contrary to Feds are telling us we’ve like three qualified applicants for every job and there’s no crisis actually. Too many engineers are well educated. They’re not finding work from Starbucks or see the mall [inaudible 08:50] for jobs. The equation is the other way around. If you take care of poverty, you will vastly improve education and a bunch of other problems.

 Martin Luther King said this, if we want, you know the direction goes the other way, one of the best ways to take care of education, problems of housing is first to eliminate poverty. Now my plan for that if nominated, I will not run if elected, I will not serve, right? Of course it is still employment. I know that it is not in my power to do, I think it’s the way to do it of course, even if it’s slightly inflationary, people need to food on the table; they need jobs. Once they have jobs, they’ll be able to spend money and that will improve everything. It will improve taxes, schools will be better, everything will be better. But until that happens, my temporary plan which I think is woefully inefficient but a step in the right direction is to protect children against the effects of poverty. You can improve teaching all you want; we’re all trying to do this but it’s very hard for children when they’re hungry, when they’re under nourished, when they’re lacking health care, when they need glasses, and they haven’t access to books, so say we can work on these things and we can do it for a fraction of the cost on what they’re going to spend on tests.

 I estimate that the Federal government is going to spend about all the States are going to spend, about 25 billion dollars just to get kids connected to the Internet so they can take the new test.  The new test demands that you’re connected to the Internet, I mean this is huge amounts of money and a fraction of that will really take care of protecting children from poverty that three problems and I’ll focus on the one you were asking me about, about reading. One problem of course is food and there’s some small movements in the Department of Education for improving free breakfast and free lunch programs and that’s really important. Second part is school nurses; David Berliners pointed it out during the research that the ration of school nurses per child is much higher in poor schools than in rich schools. They are fewer nurses available [inaudible 11:12] they are working on the infrastructure making sure there’s equipment in the science lab, making sure there’s toilet paper in the bathroom etc., the room isn’t leaking etc.,

 And the one I’ve been focusing on is libraries. Access to books.

 Poor children and we’re going to collapse both issues: Poor children and ESL because for the most part, they’re the same population. Most children who are language minority kids, not all, point out exceptions. But are children of poverty, and this just overwhelms. Rich ESL kids do okay. They have access to books, good background in the first language, and the other ones who succeed. But the ones who come in from the working class or underclass families that’s the problem.

 The first thing to do, not the only thing to do, but the first thing to do, is to guarantee access to books. This means libraries. Let me tell you a little bit of what we know about libraries and this is depressing research, but at the same time very exciting research because it points to real solutions for a modest amount of money put in the right places.

We know first of all, when children have access to books, they read more. Now the critics say this isn’t true. Kids will just sit around; they won’t look at books, etc. No, it’s not true. When children have access to books that are comprehensible and interesting, they do read them. Just about every child reads them. I’ve just finished a paper looking at research on Sustained Silent Reading programs and whether kids are engaged or not and the only times you see kids who are not engaged, other than maybe one or two, here and there, are when the books aren’t available, the books aren’t any good, the teachers make them sit alert in their seat and pay attention every minute, where you know it’s kind of like being in prison or make them do extensive reports. When you do it right, the kids can do read if they have interesting stuff to read. I mean look at the influence of Twilight and Harry Potter, how many kids read these books? And they really like them. And R.L Stine who I think has done more for literacy than just about anybody else. My generation, my son’s generation, my daughter’s generation it was Stan Lee, Marvel Comics and Archie, you know, generation of readers who’ve done very, very well. So when you provide access to books, kids will read them, if they’re interesting and comprehensible.

 No. 2: If they read a lot, they get more literate. The overwhelming evidence behind free, voluntary reading, I am more impressed with it all the time. Kids who read more have, of course they read better, they write better, they are more likely to have acceptable writing style; their vocabulary is better, their spelling is better, not always perfect but really good. Their grammar is better; that means they have better control of complex grammatical structures.

 Not only that, they know more. Study after study shows this. Keith Stanovich has done a very, very good series of studies on this. People who read a lot know more about everything, you know, of course literature, science and all of this, but they also know more about practical matters. Colleagues of mine and I just published a paper called, “Are Readers Nerds?” and the answer is no. They are more involved with the world – kids and adults. They are more likely considered as interesting people. Reading just wins all around and the answer is making sure that these books are available.

 The people are just finishing up now, I’m sure you’ll all be there to hear me deliver it. It will be in Busan, Korea in January, claims that free voluntary reading is the basis of our knowledge of academic language. What I’m hypothesizing now, and this is in the last few weeks, is that there are two steps to developing academic language. Everybody wants ours kids to have academic language; academic language, learn to write like scientists, etc. The way they do it once you know how to read is to do years and years of free voluntary reading that’s narrow, and Mike, I’ll ask for your case history in a moment, and I’ll add it to our storage of data, okay?

 Here’s what happened to me; when I was growing up, it started when I was like 9, 8 or nine, I started with comic books and moving into the superhero comics right away and my dad of course did not restrict me on this. He thought it was a great idea. When I was a reluctant reader in school and I was in the low reading group, he brought home comic books and that changed the world. From there I moved when I was 11-12, I moved to baseball stories. Jim Trelease and I (he’s the author of the Read-aloud Handbook) have a mutual respect for the writer of baseball novels named John R. Tunis who wrote these stunning novels about a mythical Brooklyn Dodgers team. And it’s all about the personality of the players, their problems all this as well as the thrill of the game. The last novel I remember, the father is pitching in the son as at bat in the World Series.

 Well you know, the gosh what a thing. And they’ve been estranged etc… I’ll let you read it to find out. And I re-read one when I was a grown up, and it was just as compelling as it was when I was young. After that it was science fiction – Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke; and then all that faded away when I got interested in other things when I went to…that was Stage 1. But I don’t remember much about anything that I’ve read in school. I don’t remember much about anything that has been assigned in school. It reminds me of Alfie Conn’s statement that when he was in high school he paid attention to everything except the teachers.

 Well, that’s pretty much what happens in school but compelling. That was the foundation. Then in the second stage, and I’m going to bet that’s what happened to a lot of kids; you go from narrow reading to narrow reading gradually changing the topic, okay go on. Let me pause here and ask you if that’s what happened to you.

 Mike McQueen:

Oh definitely. For me it was…well, I shouldn’t say exactly that I just kind of…

Stephen Krashen:

Unrehearsed by the way…

 Mike McQueen:

Yeah, we didn’t discuss this at the time…To me in a nutshell what happened was I struggled in reading throughout my childhood, and the very few things that I did enjoy reading which mostly was probably in middle school or high school age was non-fiction books that taught me how to play basketball. That was very narrowed. And I didn’t…now you see you described a great path of starting off with one thing and that leading to a different… I mean I’m glad to hear all the different types of reading that you did, and I didn’t get to that. I think I got overwhelmed with the required readings at school and it just pushed me away even farther. I mean I just basically put a road block of all reading because I thought reading was what everyone defined it. And at the same at that time I didn’t view myself as a reader even though I absolutely love some type of books that taught me how to play basketball.

 Stephen Krashen:

So that was basketball, basketball, basketball?

 Mike McQueen:

Yup that’s all was for me from seventh grade through high school. And you know I say books that were just about basketball but that’s not entirely true. I also love to read Sports Illustrated I would always look for the basketball articles…

 Stephen Krashen:

Just magazines?

 Mike McQueen:

Yup, the newspaper, I love to go and look at statistics and math type stuff that had to do with the local sports teams and that’s it. I mean I just wasn’t a big fiction reader. I still really am not a big fiction reader. But the problem that, the angle that I have such an issue with and that’s motivating me so much of the work that I do outside of my teaching and library career is just trying to help people see the different types of reading that’s out there and helping kids improve their attitude and realize that they’re readers.

 Stephen Krashen:

Good. My prediction is or my [inaudible 19:47] is that all that reading of the sports page, all that reading of Sports Illustrated and how to books and all that gave you academic language. And allowed…and that what makes school reading more comprehensible and allowed you to struggle through school. That’s what did it; your hidden curriculum likes that…

 And what is common about our cases is that it’s reading your own interest, they say it’s reading for academic purposes, it’s reading for your own purposes.

 That’s what made you literate and also gave you a sense of academic prose in the newspaper; how to write and how to do numbers, statistics, that’s where it all came from.

 Mike McQueen:

Yeah and I agree with you that the problem was I just didn’t have enough of it. I mean I struggled. I barely graduated high school. My grades were terrible and all that reading I described to you I probably could count on one or two hands that I just didn‘t do it that much. I wasn’t immersed, and I didn’t…I wasn’t immersed as I should have been even in those things.

 Stephen Krashen:

Let’s say what should’ve happened then…what happened to me didn’t happen to you. What happened to me is that I wasn’t only allowed to do this lighter reading, different reading. It was facilitated for me…

 By family. In your case, had you been encouraged to read even more [inaudible 21:12], school would have that much easier.

 That’s stage 1 and by the way I think most people do it through fiction, but certainly not everybody. Right now, the federal government, their common course standards people are discouraging fiction, they want to reduce the amount of fiction kids read. So they should be reading more informational texts which is not what you need for kids, and stories are powerful. If I had been your teacher in those days, I would have gotten you a lot of sports novels, by the way, or basketball is the themes or sports movies, novels and all things.

 Anyway, Stage 2 for me…that’s Stage 1 which lays the foundation, which is contrary to what the Feds are planning. It means we need libraries with lots of good stories of course. Number 2, when you do academic reading, people don’t read books on how to do academic reading or how to write in academic style. They find an area they’re interested in and they do years and years of very selective narrow reading in their area.

 I started in linguistics as a grad student. By the way, undergraduate, similar to your thing, I flunked out once. I didn’t know what I was doing, I had no interest in anything I kept changing my major every four hours [inaudible   22:27] like roommates; you know, bounced around form topic to topic.  Then I discovered linguistics, and that was much closer to what I wanted. So it was like four years of reading the complete works of Noam Chomsky. The important thing about Chomsky is that I made the discovery that it only made sense when I ignored what was assigned, you know I did it, but that was not the main thing. But I decided to read everything Chomsky had written, starting at his original early books and monographs. I found the most earliest one I could. I started with the monograph called the Syntactic Structures, published in 1957. After that the big one was Current Issues in Linguistic Theory in 60s; and then Aspects of the Theories of Syntax. And I found that if I read it chronologically, I had things like a narrative. I saw how it went from how thinking progressed, how he solved problems, so I now only picked up the academic style but I picked up his form, his way of doing science.

My interest changed after that, and in graduate school I got interested in brain language. And there’s one technique me and my colleagues were doing. It was a way of which side of the brain was processing stimuli called dichotic listening. They don’t do that anymore. They do more sophisticated stuff. But what I did once again was I went back to the earliest papers when they first discovered dichotic listening. And I must have read several hundred papers about it. I did the same thing with Alfasure research, brain damage research and other methods of what side of the brain was doing what, and as a result, everything was totally comprehensible. I got a really good feel for scientific method, how to write paper, how to progress from paper to paper, from experiment to experiment, how to gradually piece a part of the problem etcetera. And thanks to all those people that come and listen for really teaching me how to experimental research. For example I never met her but I owe Darlene Kimura a great deal. A Canadian researcher in right-left brain differences because I read every single paper she did from the beginning and each paper was short, maybe 3-4 pages and I picked up that style as well.

 From there I moved to language acquisition, language education and I already had the style; I had 95 percent of it from this neighboring field, and when I started in this field, I went back and looked at the very earliest papers. From the pioneers I’ve read, you know all of the … I’ve actually gone back to turn of the century in language arts. But in second language, I started out with James Asher’s work, which I read as a grad student. And it was one paper at a time, bottom tpr how he did it, how it developed. Every time I expand the field a little bit, and expand my interest, I start at the beginning.

 So I’ve done that looking at animal language, I’ve done that looking at bilingual education from the beginning etcetera so it becomes a narrative and I think that’s how academic language is developed. It’s developed by intensive reading for your own interest; something that you’re intensely interested in and the style comes. And I find when I read textbooks about these areas, about how to do science, and about these areas, the parts I read intensely and I already know, the parts I’ve not read in are nearly incomprehensible from the textbooks. So this I think is the answer, this is why libraries are important. The answer, this is universal. Let me expand this out and begin at the beginning.

 Little kids, at the beginning of literacy, stories and read-alouds. Jim Trelease is absolutely right…Stories are aces and everything. He has put together the research done in English-speaking world, we have evidence all over the world and this is true. My colleagues in Taiwan, [inaudible 26:43], her students, I call them my grand students, as Cho’s my student. They’ve been working with kids, reading stories. They find this leads naturally into free voluntary reading and being able to do literature, so that’s Stage 1. So this isn’t just having a good time. This is really the way we develop literacy. It happens to be very pleasant which is why I think some people might be against it. And you go on to years and years of motivated free voluntary reading as I did. And that lays the foundation for whatever reading you’re going to do in your life, for your profession. And the reading that you do on your own, the fun reading, sets things up. I think people who are destined to be great lawyers read a lot of John Grisham as preparation. That gives them the background and makes [inaudible 27:30] to everything, but it certainly helps make the technical reading more comprehensible. And for this to happen we need libraries. And I got to tell you one more thing. Big stuff. We have found, and this is work with Jeff McQuillan and Syying Lee and we did this all virtually, looking at data. We have found that a presence of a good library, this is [inaudible 27:53] international data, has a strong positive effect as poverty has a negative effect [inaudible 28:03]. That a good library can mitigate the effects of poverty, and we’re not the only ones who found this. I discovered later that other people have found this as well. So this is going full circle. This is part of the answer. Now ESL that’s [inaudible 28:18]. This is also, we’d like to encourage reading on the primary language as well and using the primary language…Builds up a tremendous amount of background knowledge very quickly which makes the world more comprehensible and it facilitates everything. The more first language you have, the better. And if you continue reading in the first language which you’ll be highly functioning; bilingual people who are very, very good in both are usually those who read in both. So that’s today’s [inaudible 28:48] of that.

 Mike McQueen:

That sounds good. Well tell me a little bit more about what the connection with libraries and who was it that you said that you’ve done some research with and…

 Stephen Krashen:

What we did is we looked at the PIRLS examination. This is a P-I-R-L-S. this is an international test given to kids in 40 different countries at the age of 15….I’m sorry, at the age of ten. I get it mixed up with Pisa…the age of 10…and they take the test in their own language and they do all this statistical magic to make sure the test is equal difficult in each language. And they always come out with these papers and the newspapers have a good time with it, they always announce every country except Finland. They said they have a literacy problem, you know there’s a crisis because Finland comes in first. The countries are always worried who’s beating who? You know, there’s France beating Germany and there’s Korea beating Japan. But we ignored all that stuff. Instead we looked at PIRLS data and we analyzed what the predictors were; which factors predicted higher scores in general. We found poverty, as usual was the biggest predictor. High poverty means low reading score. We found also that each of these are fed into the equation independently, they don’t [inaudible 30:10] each other. It’s called multiple regression. We found that the more free reading that come read-aloud for kids like sustained silent reading the higher the scores, there was a modest effect. We found that if we look at the percentage of children in each country who had access to a school library of over 500 books that was positive and nearly as strong as the effect of poverty. Very close.  That’s why I think they balance each other.

 Then we looked at how much reading instruction that was low predictor but negative, where reading instruction actually met worse reading.

 Mike McQueen:

Wait! Are you kidding me? So more reading structure….

 Stephen Krashen:

Instruction…

 Mike McQueen:

Reading instruction has a negative impact?

Stephen Krashen:

Yeah I think you can go after that my predictions that you’ll find from 0 instructions to a little bit, it improves things. But after a while its diminishing returns.

 Mike McQueen:

Wow…because…?

 Stephen Krashen:

[inaudible 31:06] or bad readers they think need more instruction.

 Mike McQueen:

And why do you think that is, because they just shut down and they have their bad attitude?

 Stephen Krashen:

Yeah. Instructions mostly are mechanical and blind. Having phonics for the most part which you need after all. But a little sked, but after that you know…the rules are too complicated. Phonics instruction to make the long story short helps you do better on tests where you pronounce words out loud. You don’t need to know their meaning and it has practically no impact on reading comprehension tests, which is confirmed again and again and largely ignored by people who make policy.

 Mike McQueen:

Yeah…you know I have a really quick story to tell you that supports what you have just said and it’s just baffled me.

Stephen Krashen:

Yeah…please tell me…

 Mike McQueen:

When I taught 6th grade, I taught…I was a brand new teacher and obviously I grew up. I didn’t grow up as a typical teacher so I was clueless about reading instruction and then practice, you know, techniques and everything. And what I ended up doing in my first two years of teaching is mostly free reading and letting kids choose what they wanted to and showing and modeling excitement and modeling the journey that I did all up. But really I just let them read independently. I let them sit in one of the classroom, I made it fun, I didn’t do small group reading instruction. I didn’t do so many of the things that nowadays we’re supposed to and I was so nervous the second year because we had to do standardized testing. It wasn’t what we do now but it’s the same concept. When at the end of the year when my students took the test I quickly looked and compared how they had grown from previous years and I was astounded at how much growth they did on tests. Because I felt like…I didn’t tell anyone I’m so scared to see how they did. I think I didn’t teach as much as I should have. I let them read so much. I read aloud to them every day too, that was a big part of what we did for reading. But then I was like Oh my gosh, here we go… how are they going to do? And when I saw that they did so well, I mean the majority, almost like I would say 90 percent   of them showed such amazing growth and I just couldn’t understand. I thought I was wrong I wouldn’t talk to the previous teachers and show them and said, What? This can’t…I must not be reading the reports correctly because they did…and sure enough they did it. And it was kind of a mystery to me for years, and years and years. But what you said kind of supports that idea that, teaching or just giving them independence is a powerful tool in itself.

 Stephen Krashen:

Well young man, what I would like…what you got to do now and I think I assume that several million people are listening so you’re on the spot…I’ll write this down…   A page and a half…I’d like it next week…Tell me if you remember the numbers that would be great. But even if you don’t, nobody knows this. Nobody knows this. I have published it but I’m an academic…[inaudible 34:11] worthy, academic style and nobody sees it. But if you can write it from the experience of someone who’s actually in there; we have reports, we have a lot of reports like this but not enough. People need to know that this is what happens. Because they get panicked about the tests… Tthe concepts you did, you did a lot of free reading. This is why our study show again and again and again and again. But since it’s so contrary to policy, and we’re really going to the opposite direction if these laws get in. oh boy…it’s going to be impossible to do. More people have to hear it from you. You’ve actually done it and seen it yourself. I want to recommend a couple of books that do what you did.

 These are books that have actually…in general when people say ocean we just infer we’ve been reading the whole period. And I say, wow there’s actually two possibilities. You can do ten minutes a day of sustained silent reading or 15 minutes, whatever; and then do literature, so you get them excited about good books. Or the newest experiment which just [inaudible 35:11] what you did, and there’s two books that do this; combining literature and their own choices which I think is an extraordinary experiment. And the reports are very exciting and you will see yourself in these books.

 One of them is Nancy Atwell called The Reading Zone…

 Mike McQueen:

Yup I know that book.

 Stephen Krashen:

It’s very good. The other one is Donalyn Miller called the Book Whisperer. Those are really…put kids to select themselves. They take the books at…the children read in literature circles etcetera, they share with others their own selections and it includes all the things you want in a dramatic literature class, in an exciting literature class and that strikes me as similar to your kind of experiment.  And I think this is a wonderful thing to do. And what you get in both these books is the pleasure and excitement that the teachers had with it. It’s not like Oh God it’s more work. I can’t do that. It’s more exciting! It’s much more exciting work. You can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next to the kids in the class and you get to read all these cool books and pocket album.

 Mike McQueen:

Nancy Atwell’s on my list to interview. I already did interview Donalyn Miller as well as Jim Trelease. But yeah, they just and those, definitely Donalyn Miller’s book also…I forgot what I should say but yeah her book The Book Whisperers is very, very, very strong. My wife teaches fourth grade too so you know I hear about her, teachers and other educators I know and yeah that’s definitely exploding.

 Stephen Krashen:

I think this is the future. This is the future. But what’s happening now is that people who are distant from the classroom who are controlling things are pushing us in the other direction. A couple of things are happening now although we really have to do something about them, we’ve certainly tried. Number one is the new education law to replace No Child Left Behind the new proposals everyone that’s in congress with Monty Neill, he’s head of the group called FairTest, he calls them all faircentric; all the test are renaming in fact they’re expanding. And if the US Department of Education Arne Duncan Secretary, if they have their way, we’re soon going to see more tests that we have ever seen in the history of the planet. That’s coming five, ten, 20 fold, which means there’s going to be no time for anything else. Also there’s a bill in congress, Cathy Murray from the State of Washington, and Al Franklin from Minnesota are behind it, these are democrats that’s basically going to destroy language arts as we know it. It’s called the LEARN ACT and what it does is take reading first and expand it, put around steroids and expand it all the way to 12th grade. It means heavy phonemic awareness phonics which did not work in reading first at all; and when you hit fourth grade, you’re going to be exposed to heavy intensive vocabulary instruction which is a waste of time because vocabulary is much more efficiently gained through reading…

 And nobody gets it the other way. Practically no one does it ever the other way. And heavy instruction or what we call text structure which means story grammars, how genres differ etcetera, and that’s going to form the basis of tests. And again, intensive testing of vocabulary and text structure, which means no room for literature and free reading which is what we’re talking about. I just came back from Chicago, and went to meeting the National Council of Teachers of English. The main reason I went was to present a resolution, a strong resolution together with my colleagues opposing the national standards and of course the national test standards main tests and we gave the reasons why. A version of it was passed, but by the time it got through the Resolutions Committee and the Business Meeting, about all that remained of it was I think tests are bad, which of course I wrote it, proving that statement and they managed to insert a provision that allows them to judge whether a proposal was going to be harmful or not; as if we didn’t know already. So I’m continuing this, we’re still pushing the resolution; we’re going to try to get other organizations to adopt it. This is the war we are facing, we can’t even begin to talk about free reading, bilingual education, libraries, unless we stop this movement, which I think is the end of everything we know and love about education.

 Mike McQueen:

Well, I’ll tell you. I mean teachers…right when No Child Left Behind came out and all the standardized testing came out, 99 percent of teachers throughout the whole country were throwing their arms up in the air and shaking their heads with disgust at the pressures that come about and being in the trenches, you know teachers have their plates overwhelmingly full and we need people like you to lobby and to fight and to get involved in politics. It’s just such an extremely different role…

 Stephen Krashen:

Let’s talk about first of all what they plan to do with No Child Left Behind is to do it to you harder. Okay that’s their solution. They think we just didn’t do it enough. We need more. This is…this is insane. And it’s not 99 percent. It’s 99.9 percent and Arne Duncan is going around saying, “Everyone thinks this is a great plan!” Now who is speaking up? Teachers are so overwhelmed with work, right now…

To make it worse, teachers don’t have the time and energy to do anything.

 So it’s falling to the old people who stay alert on coffee, bilingualism and reading to do these things. When I got my Emeritus status in the University, my son said, “Well Dad you’re now 007. You’re licensed to kill. They can’t touch you, okay?” Actually they couldn’t before…anyway So a few people like me have been speaking out. A few former teachers have been speaking out. The problem with people like me is that we don’t have the day to day experience that you have. I mean I could teach your wife’s class, I could sit in there for 3-4 years and I still wouldn’t know what she knows.

 It’s not enough. You need the decades of being involved with kids to get real feel of what’s going on in the classroom. So the public has not heard from the real experts, they only heard from…at best they hear from the scholars and I don’t have all the ammunition. I can tell you about the research but not the day-to-day reality. We do have some people who taught; we have Alfie Kohn speaking up. We have Susan Ohanian speaking out. We need a lot more and we need to spread the information. I do have a plan and the plan, any plan that you have for changing things has to not cost anything and not put people in danger and not take a lot of time. So here it is. I’m going to give you the first couple of steps.

 First step is get informed. You don’t have time to do that I know. You want a quick way? www.SusanOhanian.org . Ohanian as it is pronounced, O-H-A-N-I-A-N, she keeps track of everything. This is I think the center of gravity of the resistance movement. So if you just do that and you get on her mailing list, you will know what’s happening in a quick easy way. She’s got the news, she’s got comments, she’s got letters to the editor from all over the country.

The second part of that and this may be enough is to share it, share it with others. Let’s use the internet as the underground to share information. Best ways? Twitter and Facebook…

 …are great. I’ve been on Twitter for the last couple of years; Alfie Kohn told me about it. He says, “Get on Twitter!” I thought he was going to go the way of the pet rock but it looks really good. So I’m on Twitter and it forces you to say things quickly and you can link to other stuff.

 And my goal is to…I don’t think I’ll ever catch Lady Gaga. She’s up to 15 million followers? Charlie Sheen is several million already though and he’s not the most popular actor these days.

 Stephen Krashen:

I’m up to three thousand, what a waste to go…but I would get on Twitter…

Mike McQueen:

What’s your Twitter user name?

 Stephen Krashen:

SKrashen, very simple. But I follow Alfie Kohn, I follow Dianne Cravage, I follow Susan Ohanian, and of course I follow the US Department of Education to see what they’re up to. And it’s a very quick way. And something comes up I follow a guy named Paul Thomas; he’s very, very good. And you’ve got a quick way of staying up with the news and and you can tell your friends about it. If you have just ten followers, then people are actually interested in what you’re saying, they may have a few and they can spread it around very quickly.

 Facebook. I have my Facebook linked to Twitter which is very simple to do. I got on Facebook two years ago; I use it only for business. But when I first discovered it, I noticed that there was already a Steve Krashen fan club with 60 members!

 Stephen Krashen:

Oh well, it turned out 30 of them were my relatives…     …which is really nice. We get all these cousins; we’re very close and it’s great. But I think this is also another way to do it. And if we just stay up with the news, and just do Ohanian as the first step and get on Twitter and pass things around to your friends, this may do it. Public policy and what politicians do, and what newspapers do are pretty much the results of public opinion. They don’t cause public opinion they get their policy from it. So it’s up to us to change public opinion. There are a couple of problems we need to deal with; a part of this, a lot of this of course is greedy capitalism. We know that. I believe in ethical capitalism but this isn’t happening. The big people who are making and made money on No Child Left Behind are the same people making money on all these tests, and that is test manufacturers and publishers. And this is tax money going to the…So this is another example of feeding the one percent; taking from the needy, giving to the greedy; taking our tax dollars and giving it all to the Pearsons, McGraw-Hill, these big companies.

 Mike McQueen:

And we’re talking big money too, right?

 Stephen Krashen:

We’re talking billions of taxes…

 Mike McQueen:

Billions…

 Stephen Krashen:

But they would only get away with it if because a lot of people who are not in schools have a naïve view of what learning is about. Alfie Kohn is pointed this out, Frank Smith has pointed this out. Skinner has won. People believe in behavioralism. People believe in reward and punishment; they think kids don’t want to learn; teachers don’t want to teach. We got to force them into it. So that has to be attacked. So if we do got in the next step and actually speak out against it, we have to tell people, as I hope you will do, about what really goes on in classes. And what really causes kids to learn. It’s the everyday stories of… The president of the National Council of Teachers outgoing president Yvonne Serunian gave a brilliant speech at the Convention. And she talked about the importance of telling our stories, showing people what really, really happens out there. so they can see it, they can share the information. And some people are going after the companies and the unnecessary and I think borderline moral profit, sometimes immoral profits that they’re making off kids and of us.

 Again first step, find out about it, look at Susan Ohanian, five minutes twice a week to see what’s new, and then pass it on to your friends. That may be enough. If you feel like it, if you have the energy, and I know people are absolutely…oh by the way, you can do all these things anonymously. Nobody has to know. The next step is speak out; tell the public what you think. Easy way, articles come out on newspaper from the web; there are comments after, you can post your comment, and usual comments, 95 percent of them say the same things over and over, from the extremist, the extreme right thing, you know it’s all immigrants, no matter what the issue. It’s all [inaudible 48:00] these days, and you know, don’t read anymore. Turns out when you look at the data, if you look at the impact of poverty, kids these days read as much, probably more than kids used to, thanks to the computer…

Mike McQueen:

Yeah different style…

Stephen Krashen:

Well at least they’re no better or worse than they’ve ever been. Schools and education have a very tough job, and they’re pretty much okay. The Unions are not out to just protect teachers [inaudible 48:28]. Unions are very concerned about children, all these things you keep hearing. The real problem’s poverty and we’re making it worse by these new laws that were bringing in and we’re making the effect of poverty much stronger because there’s no money left over to protect kids.

 Mike McQueen:

Wow, Steven thank you so much! Let’s wrap it up there, I mean to… one of my questions was going to be what tips do you have for teachers…and let me just summarize if I heard you correctly?

 Three suggestions: So, LEARN – find out information for yourself; SPREAD THE INFO – pass it on to other people. I know you mentioned Twitter and Facebook, and also SPEAK OUT – share your stories about what you’ve experienced, frustrations and problems that you have. And I know that you’re attacking things. And my goal is to help teachers and parents with struggling readers. That’s pretty narrow and I can’t…

 Stephen Krashen:

Same thing…you’re trying to help day to day.

 Mike McQueen:

Yup and I can’t think of a better way than a bigger level…yeah…

 Stephen Krashen:

I’m talking about the big picture and the small picture of course is support your friendly-neighborhood librarian.

 Stephen Krashen:

[inaudible 49:39] faculty meetings for the library. Without the library, you’ve got nothing. And with a good library and a librarian who loves books and loves children and most of them do and understands children life is easier for everybody.

 Mike McQueen:

Yeah…Yup that’s what we’re all about. That’s what I’m trying to get out there and spread the word too. So thank you so much! Thanks for taking time to talk with us today, and I hope to stay in touch with you. I’ll definitely look you up on Twitter and connect with you on Facebook and let’s stay connected.

 Stephen Krashen:

Okidokey…Very good Mike, thank you.

Transcribed by Melanie

 

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