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U.S. Sen. Murray Introduces K-12 Literacy Bill

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Today, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington state, introduced a literacy bill into the U.S. Congress that would provide $2.35 billion in funding for literacy programs from kindergarten to 12th grade. The bill would replace federal reading programs such as Reading First and Striving Readers. A summary from Murray's office says that at least 10 percent of the bill's funding would go to early-childhood education, at least 40 percent would go to students in grades K-5, and at least 40 percent would be spent on students in grades 6-12. If the bill were passed and fully funded, it would give a substantial boost to adolescent literacy programs.

The federal government's only reading program that focuses on adolescents, Striving Readers, is financed with $35 million for the current fiscal year.

A spokesman for Murray said that a similar literacy bill (see a summary) is expected to be introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives within the next two days.

I wrote about a draft of the literacy bill this summer. At that point, U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, who had co-sponsored the Striving Readers legislation with Murray, was expected to be a sponsor as well. But the press release I received today about the introduction of the bill in Congress doesn't list him as having endorsed the bill. It doesn't name any Republicans as sponsors.

17 Comments

Here we go again, more of what doesn't work: "Providing students with explicit, systematic, and developmentally appropriate instruction in reading and writing, including but not limited to vocabulary development, phonemic awareness,
reading comprehension ...". Only briefly mentioned: "the use of diverse texts" but not how they will be used. As usual, no mention of what really works, lots of good stories, read alouds, plenty of access to books, (libraries!!), exciting literature discussions ...
The true reading crisis in the US are policy makers who do not read the research.

That's 43 bucks a kid!

That's enough to buy one new library book per kid per year PLUS hire nearly 12 thousand school librarians.

Come on people -- isn't anyone paying attention??

I don't know any school librarians who have been trained to teach a non-reader to read. And I wonder about the value of libraries for non-readers --read alouds--for sure, picture books, for sure, but suggesting books and libraries replace direct instruction for disabled or below grade level readers is a stretch. Before students can enjoy the multitude of benefits of beautifully illustrated, well-written literature, they must be able to read the words on the page!

Since a credentialed school librarian is ALSO a credentialed teacher, they have been trained to teach a "non-reader" to read.

There should be an earmark in this bill going directly to a Title 1 school district of Stephen Krashen's choosing implementing the exact reading "program" he favors in the exact manner he recoomends. Then when that program fails, and it will certainly fail, he will agree never to offer another one of his dopey opinions on reading instruction. We should offer one of these Krashen earmarks to every reading advocate so that the toxic herd might be thinned considerably within five years.

A good literacy program SHOULD provide some funding for libraries. Students need myriad opportunities to select books to read independently to practice their reading skills. Teach them to read their textbooks-- and make them read/don't lecture so much. Then let them practice and learn even more with library resources.

Oh my...does anyone think any more?The true crisis comes from D.C. and their egghead ideas.

The point is RESEARCH-based action. Let's put our money where the RESEARCH is.

Research shows that libraries ARE effective in improving literacy and academic competencies.

RESEARCH shows that children DO learn to read and excel in direct correlation to their access to high quality, winsome reading materials (i.e. libraries).

And our nation should only be so lucky as to have a "Krashen earmark" in these NON-research based expenditures.


In response to Susan Smart:

The point is not whether librarians can teach beginning readers. We are already doing this. Nearly all children learn to read at basic levels. (Some develop faster than others, but this is true of nearly everything developmental.) Their improvement after they reach the basic level depends on their access to reading material and establishing a reading habit. The research is now overwhelming that libraries help do this. Yet there has been zero mention of school or public libraries in all the pious pronouncements about literacy.

Richard Moore's suggestion is a MUCH more reasonable way to invest the $2.35 billion.

Teach reading? California has over 10,000 reading teachers, K-12. And ranks in the bottom 5 states in reading year after year. What have they been doing? Teaching the rules? Where do the kids get to practice what they learn?

California has about 1200 credentialed librarians -- for 9000 schools -- the lowest staffing in the nation. Zero dollars are targeted at school library materials from the state. We would have to hire 6000 school librarians to be average.

Here, Johnny: a bat, a ball, and a glove. Think about baseball, over there in the corner.

Janie you (and Krashen) are confusing correlation for causation. That mistake is one of the the most pervsasive in education policy discussions. In this case it is especially embarrassing because it's easy to see how the causation could flow backwards from the way you suggest (more literarte people value books more and thus build more libraries).

Response to KDeRosa re correlation and causality:
It is true that some studies are simple correlations between access to libraries/library quality and reading achievement. More recent studies are multivariate, and control for a number of factors, such as poverty.

In addition, a more complete picture is this: (1) more access to books leads to more reading, and (2) more reading leads to better reading. Studies that support (1) and (2) do not suffer from the correlation-causality problem.

More recent studies are multivariate, and control for a number of factors, such as poverty.

Those too are correlational studies however much you'd like them to be otherwise.

more access to books leads to more reading No, more access to books correlates with more reading. There's a big difference. This theory also ignores all the other instructional variables that need to be in place for a student with access to books is able to read them.

more reading leads to better reading

Generally, practice does lead to better performance. However, it does not follow that giving a child access to more books will lead to better reading because it is unknown whether the child is able to read the books you've given here access to.

Really? So if I give a pile of calculus, physics, and other extremely challenging books to, say, an eight year old, the child will be able to read better in year or two?

Studies that support (1) and (2) do not suffer from the correlation-causality problem.

Only (2) has a causal link. And, there is a large gap between (1) and (2) such that even if you had a cuasal link for (2) there's no gaurantee you'd ever reach (2).

Across Florida districts our school libraries, aka, media centers are now staffed by paraprofessionals. Only in schools where principals value paying for the teaching unit of a librarian have full time librarians survived, and yes they are CERTIFIED TEACHERS as well. High schools report their libraries are now closed to students before, after and during school lunches. Only students accompanied by teachers may enter. So, throw all the money you want at "reading." But the true message we are sending is don't bother to read, you can't get in. As a high school reading teacher I am appalled at the drive by educrats' MICRO MISmanagement of teaching students to read. I'll take as many of Dr. Krashen's literacy strategies as he cares to share. Bring them on.


Kenneth DeRosa might want to read the studies before describing them.


Mr. DeRosa,
I don't know your qualifications, but I do know Dr. Krashen's. He has done quite a bit of research in English as a Second Language and English Language Learners. He has written a book called The Power of Reading as well as other publications. He has a PhD. and was a professor at Southern Cal. He is not a librarian and yet he says the most effective way for English Language Learners to learn to read is to read and read some more. The only way most children can afford to do that is to have access to a quality library program. And why would anyone want to argue against a quality library program anyway??

Good grief. We have gone round and round forever with ideas on how to teach reading. EVERY time we ramp back and teach by implicit, direct, micro-"look at the bits of words" instruction we discover that it doesn't work. What this instruction gives us are kids who can read, but refuse to do so. And because they don't read often, they never learn to read well enough to even want to read widely. This lack of motivation shows up in low test scores,poor grades and underachievement. It doesn't take a research study to notice that our successful students are those who read outside of school in spite of the reading assigned in school.
Just watch any good librarian give a booktalk. At then end you will see students running to pick up a great sounding book. Students need good reading teachers but they also need librarians supported by a great collection and teacher encouragement to read on their own - books of their own choosing. It's no accident that reading scores began to slide downward at the same time that librarians were cut from schools.

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