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Posted at 12:56 PM ET, 09/21/2010

RIF study: Access to print materials helps student achievement

By Valerie Strauss

This post was written by Carol H. Rasco, president and chief executive of Reading Is Fundamental, Inc., the oldest and largest children’s and family nonprofit literacy organization in the United States. It provided 4.4 million children with 15 million new, free books and literacy resources last year.

Rasco writes about a study commissioned by RIF, so perhaps it is not surprising that its work would be validated by the results. Still, I am publishing this because I believe that these programs are important and that they do, indeed, help improve student achievement. In fact, earlier studies have shown the same thing, but this is a message that never gets old, especially in a time when poverty is growing.

By Carol H. Rasco
What impact, if any, does access to print materials have on our children’s reading and academic success?

In an unprecedented search uncovering 11,000 reports and analyzing 108 of the most relevant studies, children’s book lending and ownership programs were shown to have positive behavioral, educational and psychological outcomes.

The study released today, Children’s Access to Print Materials and Education-Related Outcomes, was commissioned by Reading Is Fundamental, the largest children’s literacy nonprofit in the United States, and conducted by Learning Point Associates, an education research and consulting nonprofit and affiliate of American Institutes for Research.

The findings show that providing children access to print materials:

*Improves their reading performance. Among the studies reviewed, kindergarten students showed the biggest increase.

*Is instrumental in helping them learn the basics of reading, such as letter and word identification, phonemic awareness and completion of sentences.

*Prompts them to read more frequently and for greater amounts of times.
Improves their attitudes toward reading and learning.

The findings reveal what so many have both suspected and innately known to be true — access to print materials does, in fact, improve children’s reading skills, among other critical educational factors.

This research is conclusive evidence for educators, parents and communities to better understand the significance of making print material available for children at school and in the home.

Too often we hear stories about how children don’t have access to the simplest of things — like books — and that families are struggling each and every day to make ends meet.

The U.S. Census Bureau last week reported that one in seven Americans is living in poverty, the highest number in the half-century that the government has kept such statistics.

In addition, two-thirds of families with children living in poverty have no books in the home. And across the country, the reduction of funding usually available for libraries is forcing many of them to close or reduce their hours, making access to books even more challenging.

More than ever before, as families struggle with limited resources, RIF’s mission to provide free, quality books to children is of the highest educational importance. Ensuring our nation’s youth have access to books can mean seeing them achieve greater success in school and in life. Let’s be sure to help them reach their highest potential.

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By Valerie Strauss  | September 21, 2010; 12:56 PM ET
Categories:  Guest Bloggers, Reading, Research  | Tags:  guest bloggers, reading, research  
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This is just common sense. The more reading material available, the more likely that something will catch his interest--and interest is the major incentive to reading.

I once worked in a bookstore, and every week a grandmother and her grandson would come in. They would browse for a while, and she would buy a magazine (National Review or something like that), and whatever candy bar and comic her grandson picked out. One day he asked her if, instead of the candy and comic, she would be willing to pay a bit more for a book he had found. She smiled at me and said, "I knew if he just saw enough books sooner or later he would find one he wanted to read."

Posted by: sideswiththekids | September 22, 2010 12:02 PM | Report abuse

I just finished reading this report, all 224 pages, which I learned about today. Yes, as Valerie Strauss points out, it was commissioned by RIF and confirms RIF's philosophy. It is, however, very thorough. It includes my work, but the conclusions would hold without my studies. The report shows that access to reading material really does matter, libraries matter, and the effect is significant and consistent across many studies. More access to reading material means children read better (the crucial analysis, in my opinion, is presented on table 21), have more positive attitudes toward reading, and engage in more reading behavior.

I predict that the typical reaction will be "we already knew that." Merton, quoted by D.K. Simonton in Scientific Genius (p. 140), calls this "adumbrationism" or "the denigrating of new ideas by pretending to find them old." If we already knew that, why are libraries under-funded? Why is there so little investment in school and public libraries for children of poverty, who have practically no access to books in their homes or communities? We cheerfully go along with Arne Duncan's insane ideas of increasing testing to ever higher levels, and eagerly spend money on any bizarre approach to teaching reading that involves technology, but are unwilling to invest in the most obvious: providing access to interesting print. For a fraction of the cost of the standards and testing program planned by the Dept of Education, we could insure that all children have access to reading material.

Maybe this report will change things.

Posted by: skrashen | September 23, 2010 2:54 AM | Report abuse

My daughter realized early on that if she found a book with an award medallion on its cover, I would buy it for her. I took the kids to lots of used bookstores (this was 30 years ago). My son was always picking how-to books. Now I have a week-old granddaughter who was fetted before birth with a "book shower" -- all the gifts were children's books. Would that all children had this level of attentiveness to their reading needs.

Posted by: richardguy1 | September 23, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I think that some people may be shied away from this post because many would not have had the time to read all the report, 224 pages. For intellectual reasons and curiosity I have just began the reading of it and it calls my attention that the report does not resort to the great amount of research in the field of second language acquisition (adults learning to read in a second language…“even though the cognitive mechanisms underlying the influence of print material on outcomes may be the same as with children.” page 11). What is the agenda underlying this condition considering the great amount of English Language Learners in American schools?

I would like someone explains to me if there is any practical reason for such a condition…
As a language acquisition lover, I don’t see how all that empirical evidence in the field of second language acquisition can be ignored, where the emphasis has to be played on “comprehensible input (Skrashen),” I have seen the same problems faced by native students learning how to read in their mother tongue, this is “deprivation of pint materials prevent children from learning how to read and improve their vocabulary and knowledge,” since the auditory input will never be enough for them to face academic requirements at school. I remember Dr. krashen mentioned this in one of his blogs…he claims that the amount of words a middle class 4th grader in American schools has to be able to understand and read must be of 1 million words. A child does not have to speak using all those words in his/her daily basic life but has to be able to understand them all when encountered with them in his readings and then be able to use them if he/she needed them…so I just don’t see how all this body of research can be evaded…
They, in the repost, say that they are using “relevant” studies…when something is a law it happens always when the condition is called upon…comprehensible input of print material available to children is a must in order children to learn to read in a target language…and it is just the same like in adults learning a second language…So, “speaking is not the key when learning a second language” (Krashen) as much as auditory input is not the key when learning how to read but pint material and the print material has to be comprehensible…of course children need to know how to pronounce those words but they can resource to dictionaries and even the internet ( specially those who are teenagers…the difference here is with the little ones who rely on the auditory input to know the pronunciation of the unknown words…Still children need to get used of the ambiguities of the target language…
Increasing testing is increasing output…when comprehensible input (reading) is the key in a free anxiety environment…those who want to down play this reality are not aware of the damage children and teenager can face and the amount of time and money waste…
Jehovanna Arcia

Posted by: getfit25pa25pa | September 24, 2010 8:45 PM | Report abuse

A correction: "Increasing testing is increasing output."

What I want to say is that “increasing testing is supposed to increase output" but there is not output at all…This is how is the output be increased if there is not print material available? How can money be used to question something that is even logical understood? Even forcing that artificial output is counterproductive, especially for those little ELL. The only possible way is to be read and Dr. Krashen talks about “Sustained Silent Reading.” I wish I would have been encouraged to read and read and read when I began studying English instead of having been tested and forced to speak when I was not comfortable to do so. I have not seen much difference in some born Americans who speak another language at home.
Jehovanna Arcia

Posted by: getfit25pa25pa | September 25, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

As a last comment I want to say that not everybody has to be punished to get inspiration or motivation, I mean the “no pain no gain approach which is very American”…I still do not see any other better approach for those ELL that the “Input Hypothesis approach” and the MM approach (Krashen)…I am in love with these approaches…I keep monitoring myself and I only see important for children to learn the parts of the speech…

Look at the mistake I did…”It is even logical understood”… it has to be “It is even logically understood”…maybe because of those flaws in Arizona and in NY they rather prefer to hire native speakers of the English language, even though they may not be English teachers trained to teach ELL, but they are the “appropriate pedagogical model,” just remember that apart from the spoken language the rest of the knowledge has to be acquired through extensive reading instead of an intensive one (list of words and phonics)…
Jehovanna Arcia

Posted by: getfit25pa25pa | September 25, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

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