Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The home run book: Can one positive reading experience create a reader?

The home run book: Can one positive reading experience create a reader?
Debra Von Sprecken, Jiyoung Kim, and Stephen Krashen
California School Library Journal, 23(2), 8-9, 2000

"Free reading appears to be the source of much of our reading ability, our writing style, much of our vocabulary knowledge, our spelling ability, and our ability to handle complex grammatical constructions" (Krashen, 1993; Elley, 1991, 1998)

Based on personal experience growing up in the Philippines and reading mostly English books, I still find myself making wrong lexical and grammatical choices due to the influence of the environment, through the way other people talk and on TV. Even though I read a lot, I've been reading mostly fiction since I was 12, all in English, I still make weird grammatical mistakes and I find sometimes that the words I learn from repeated exposure in books have far different meanings than what I thought they were after appropriating their meaning after several encounters.

n = 214; 4th grade students from 3 elementary schools in the LA area

Research Questions:
1. Do you like to read?
2. Is there one book or experience that interested you in reading?

I wonder about the validity of the first research question. Are people who like reading necessarily "readers" as the title suggests?

1. around 96% said yes
(the children borrowed an average of 13 books each from the library)
2. around 55%

1. To ensure that students can become readers, a well-stacked library is a must. The books must be up to date and suit the readers' preferences.
2. I went to the Taipei American School (TAS) to do an observation one time and they had something called a "book flood" or something; I forgot the exact term. What the teacher does is he/she brings the whole class to the library (they have three libraries: lower school, middle school, and upper school) and the students are free to read whatever they want within the hour; they are also allowed to check the books out if they wanted to continue reading outside the library. They also have a mini library in each of their classrooms so kids can pick up books during break and sometimes even during class. Just having the books around could be a motivation to read for some, I believe.
3. In the research paper, students listed the names of the books that got them interested in reading (home run books), and surprisingly, Harry Potter was not on the list. I kept thinking that Harry Potter created many readers.
4. For the first research question, around 96 percent of the students said that they liked reading. The number is surprisingly high, since not many people around me like to read. This is true in Japan and Taiwan. I believe, though, that the number is a bit higher in the Philippines? I could be wrong. But I recall one joke saying that Latinos go to the beach to play in the water while Americans go to the beach to read a book. I guess it's cultural.

Possible Research Opportunities:
1. I wonder what the results would be in another cultural setting so it may be a good idea to replicate the same study in another setting. (Note to self: administer the same research questions to Mack's students)
2. What motivates potential readers to read a home run book? How do they get interested enough to even try it in the first place?
I personally started reading because my friends were reading
3. Are there also "strike out experiences," negativ experiences with reading that discourage free reading?
I read a fair share of really bad books but that didn't deter me from reading on
4. Can a home run experience make up for a "strikeout" experience? Can one positive experience be a cure for one or more negative experiences?
I suppose so. I also believe that series can be more motivating just single titles

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