Opinion
Reading & Literacy Letter to the Editor

Reading for Pleasure Can Close ‘Vocabulary Gap’ at Any Age

May 12, 2015 1 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

To the Editor:

Children of poverty clearly have slower vocabulary development, and this appears to be related not only to the quantity but also the quality of their interaction with parents (“Research on Quality of Conversation Holds Deeper Clues Into Word Gap,” April 22, 2015).

Rather than intervene and give parents “conversation training,” as is described in your article, we might consider simpler solutions.

First, despite the fact that Susan Neuman, a New York University professor of education and department chair, has misgivings about read-alouds, there is substantial evidence that even a modest effort to provide books and basic guidance in read-alouds has a substantial effect on vocabulary growth. Especially interesting are a series of studies using the methods undertaken by the literacy nonprofit group Reach Out and Read, in which books and guidance are provided during well-child clinic visits.

Second, we can encourage self-selected free voluntary reading as soon as children can read independently. A recent study by Alice Sullivan and Matt Brown of the Center for Longitudinal Studies at the University of London confirmed that we can increase our vocabulary by reading at any age: The impact of reading on vocabulary development in older readers is independent of the level of poverty of their parents.

So-called “late intervention” is powerful. A child of poverty who becomes a dedicated pleasure reader will rapidly close not only the vocabulary gap, but the literacy gap in general.

Stephen Krashen

Professor Emeritus

Rossier School of Education

University of Southern California

Los Angeles, Calif.

A version of this article appeared in the May 13, 2015 edition of Education Week as Reading for Pleasure Can Close ‘Vocabulary Gap’ at Any Age

Events

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on Oral Language in Reading Instruction
This Spotlight will help you determine where your reading instruction may have holes and more.
Reading & Literacy Data More States Are Making the 'Science of Reading' a Policy Priority
Four states have passed laws requiring evidence-based instruction, and at least 18 are directing COVID relief funds to early reading.
4 min read
Getty Images
Getty Images
Reading & Literacy Popular Literacy Materials Get 'Science of Reading' Overhaul. But Will Teaching Change?
Lucy Calkins and Jennifer Serravallo are among those releasing updates that move away from unproven techniques like three-cueing.
18 min read
A book becomes an open doorway
iStock/Getty
Reading & Literacy Opinion The Science of Reading Should Make Room for Skepticism (Just Not for Ignorance)
COVID-19 has provided us with a front-row seat to an underappreciated truth about science, writes Claude Goldenberg.
Claude Goldenberg
5 min read
Surreal Illustration of books flying through the air
Jorm Sangsorn/iStock