Stephen Krashen's book The Power of Reading: Insights from the Research is one of those books that has ended up with scribbles crawling all over its pages and sections that have been so heavily underlined that they leave a little dent on the next couple of pages. I often find myself reading it while nodding furiously and/or mumbling agreement. In other words, this is a book I very strongly agree with.
Simply put, Krashen makes the case for Free Voluntary Reading (FVR) and how this is the key to language education. Allowing children the freedom to choose what they want to read and allowing them the space to simply enjoy the act (i.e. no book reviews, no questions, no stress) is the best way to grow intrinsically motivated readers. Being a reader, as the research shows, brings with it a whole host of benefits such as improved reading comprehension, spelling, control of grammar and writing style. Krashen writes,
"FVR is one of the most powerful tools we have in language education, and... is the missing ingredient in first language "language arts" as well as intermediate second and foreign language instruction. It will not, by itself, produce the highest levels of competence; rather, it provides a foundation so that higher levels of proficiency may be reached. When FVR is missing, these advanced levels are extremely difficult to attain."It saddens me how often I hear "I don't read, I never have" or "I don't have time to read" because the benefits are so vast. I feel desperate to try and change these statements because the world of reading is so wonderful and the benefits so far reaching. But it goes further; not only is it good for us,it is pleasurable, it is how we make sense of the world around us, how we survive and ultimately it is our attraction to stories that makes us fully human.
Krashen goes as far as to say that reading is the only way that we become "good readers, develop a good writing style, an adequate vocabulary, advanced grammatical competence, and the only way we become good spellers." In an educational context then, reading for pleasure, that all-consuming moment of being fully drenched by a story, should be elevated not to a convenient add-on "when there is time", but to its central place at the heart of the curriculum.