~ So, what do you think: is Burbank Reads, The Big Read or One City, One Book 'big wastes' or 'a bad solution that addresses the wrong problem?'
Big Read or big waste? Speeches and an $8-million program will not turn Americans into readers.
If you blew off your summer reading lists in school, the government is here to help. Alarmed by the proportional decline in reading for pleasure among Americans, the National Endowment for the Arts has expanded its Big Read initiative, which is designed to "restore reading to the center of American culture." Big Read began as a pilot project in 2006 and is similar to the "city reads" projects across the nation that began in the late 1990s.
America has not lacked for opportunities to read "A Farewell to Arms" or "The Great Gatsby.” According to the NEA's own figures, pleasure reading has been declining (in percentage terms) despite all these public and private reading drives. The idea that a few million dollars and speeches by a few hundred mayors are going to make pleasure reading "central" again is too silly for, well, words.
Jim Henley is right about the National Endowment of the Arts’ “Big Read” plan to encourage reading: Stephen Krashen: sent to the Los Angeles Times, February 26, 2008. Re: ("Big read or big waste?,” February 25)
Their elitist approach is like trying to deal with hunger by having wine tasting parties.
Also it is not clear that we are reading less. Studies show that in 1945 only 21% said they read something yesterday. In 1991, it was 31%, and in 2006, 38%, suggesting an increase in reading.
Scores show that reading ability has not declined. Fourth and eighth grade reading scores have not decreased since 1984. Twelfth graders’ scores dropped only four points since 1984 and are the same as they were in 1971.
The real problem is that children of poverty haven little to read at home, in school, or in their communities. As a result, they don’t read very much and don’t read very well.
The Big Read is a bad solution that addresses the wrong problem.
Stephen Krashen - Professor Emeritus, University of Southern California