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Access to Engaging, Age-Appropriate Books
Seminal research:
Elley and Mangubhai found that increasing access to books for children with limited access to books increased their literacy achievement. They studied 614 children in 4th and 5th grade classrooms in rural Fijian schools with very few books. Of these children, 380 were in classrooms where the researchers provided 250 high-interest, illustrated story books in English per classroom, and 234 were in the on-going English language program that put little emphasis on reading. Eight of the 16 experimental classes used sustained silent reading. The other 8 experimental classes used the Shared Book Experience (a.k.a., shared reading), a teaching technique where the teacher points to the print in full view of the children while reading to the children. The researchers found that after eight months, the pupils in the two experimental groups progressed in reading comprehension at twice the rate of the comparison group (p<.001).
    Elley, W.B., & Mangubhai, F. (1983). The impact of reading on second language learning. Reading Research Quarterly, XIX, 53-67.
Replication research:
  • Elley found the availability of books is a key factor in reading achievement. He studied the reading achievement of children in 32 countries and found that factors which consistently differentiated high-scoring and low-scoring countries were large school libraries, large classroom libraries, regular book borrowing, frequent silent reading in class, and frequent story reading aloud by teachers. The highest scoring countries typically provide their students with greater access to books in the home, in nearby community libraries and book stores, and in the school.

      Elley, W.B. (1992). How in the World Do Students Read? The IEA Study of Reading Literacy. The Hague, the Netherlands: International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement.

  • Krashen found a significant positive correlation between each (U.S.) state's 1992 fourth-grade reading comprehension scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) and the number of books per students in school libraries (p.<01) as well as library use (p<.01), regardless of how much money the state spent on education per pupil. The findings suggest that for money spent on education to effect reading scores it needs to be invested in library books.

      Krashen, S. (1995). School libraries, public libraries, and the NAEP reading scores. School Library Media Quartery, 23, 235-237.

  • Neuman found that increasing 3- and 4-year-old children's access to books in child care centers serving economically disadvantaged children and providing training to child-care staff in an intervention program known as Books Aloud significantly increased the children's early literacy knowledge. The program flooded over 330 child care centers with high-quality children's books at a ratio of 5 books per child and provided 10 hours of training to child-care staff. Neuman examined the project's impact on 400 3-and 4-year-old children randomly selected from 50 centers across 10 regions and 100 control children from comparable child care centers not involved in the project.

    Neuman found the children in the experimental group showed significantly higher increases in concepts of print (p.<.01), letter name knowledge (p<.001), concepts of writing (p<.001) and concepts of narrative (p<.05) than the control group.

      Neuman, S.B. (1999). Books make a difference: A study of access to literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 34, 3, 286-311.
Related research:
  • Smith, Constantino, and Krashen found large differences in children's access to books in different communities in the U.S. They studied three neighboring communities in southern California: Beverly Hills with a medium income of $83,000, Compton with a medium income of $20,000, and Watts with a medium income of $15,000. They found great disparities in children's access to books, as shown in the following table:
  • Age-appropriate books in: Beverly Hills Compton Watts
    the home 199 2.7 .04
    classroom libraries 392 47 54
    school libraries 60,000 16,000 23,000

      Smith, C., Constantino, R., & Krashen, S. (1997). Difference in print environment for children in Beverly Hills, Compton and Watts. Emergency Librarian, 24, 4, 8-9.

  • Neuman and Celano found striking differences in access to print between middle-income neighborhoods and low-income neighborhoods. They found children in middle-income neighborhoods have a large variety of resources to choose from while children in low income neighborhoods have to rely on public institutions which provide unequal resources, both in quantity and quality, across communities.
    • Neuman, S.B. and Celano, D. (2001). Access to print in low-income and middle-income communities: An ecological study of four neighborhoods. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 1, 8-26.

(See also Reading by Children, Reading to Children)
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