Academic and Education

August 13 Reading Webinar

By Lesley Farmer posted 23 days ago

August 13's webinar hosted by the Special Library Association Academic & Education Community and ACRL's EBSS Education Committee occurs at 1:30pm EST on August 13. USC Emeritus Professor and best-selling author Dr. Stephen Krashen will discuss "Free Reading in Higher Education." 


"Our goal is to help students develop "academic literacy," which requires the acquisition of academic language and the structure of academic texts. Surprise! The best way to acquire academic literacy is NOT through hard study of vocabulary, grammar, and careful analysis of academic texts. The best way is ... fiction. I will present the strong empirical case for fiction, the path of pleasure, which includes popular novels and ... graphic novels and comic books."

Meeting Recording:

His main points follow:

The power of pleasure reading.  S. Krashen


  1. What we know about language acquisition: the comprehension (input)hypothesis: ability to speak, write, grammatical accuracy, vocabulary, spelling the RESULT of language acquisition.

Sources:  Principles and Practice (1982), The Power of Reading (2004);, Zlibrary

  1. The power of self-selected fiction (synonyms = fiction, stories, literature).

Fiction viewed negatively in the 1880's and 1890's,

Libraries "worked valiantly to reduce … fiction circulation (Ross et al  p 11).

"… the craze for books leads to 'inattention, want of application, distaste for study, and unretentive memory' (Bean, 1879, "The evil of unlimited freedom in the use of juvenile fiction," p. 347).

"No dissipation can be worse than that induced by the perusal of exciting books of fiction (Graff. 1979, p. 39, A Christian Guardian editorial, 7/31/1850).

  • Seduction of the Innocent: Comics > poor reading, poor behavior. Wertham, 1954.
  1. The power of fiction:
  2. Driving to Santa Monica….
  3. NY public library; NY Times – fiction!
  4. Fiction vs. nonfiction: Sullivan, A. and Brown, M. 2014. Vocabulary from adolescence to middle-age. Institute of Education, University of London; Jerrim, J. & Moss, G. (2019). Brit. Educ. J. 45.1
  5. What reading gives us:
  6. language: grammar, vocabulary, spelling, writing style. DeVries, 1970 to Lee, 2005: only predictor of writing quality = leisure reading, NOT writing.

What about academic language?  McQuillan (2019; Reading Matrix 19) 22 novels written for young people (e.g. Nancy Drew, Twilight): included 85% of 485 "academic" words on an academic word list, words that appear in several academic areas at the post-secondary level (Coxhead, 2000) and 44% appeared 12 times or more in the novels McQuillan examined.

  1. knowledge: read more > know more (literature, history, science, practical matters) West, R., K. Stanovich, & Mitchell, H. 1993. Reading Research Quarterly 28
  2. habits of mind: empathy, understanding that the world is complicated - Kidd, D., & Castano, E. (2013). Science, 342 (6156), 377-380; Djikic, M., Oatley, K. & Moldoveanu, M. (2013). Creativity Research Journal, 25(2), 149-154.

"You're learning to be somebody else, learning to see the world through their eyes."  Terry Gross

Barack Obama, in the Guardian, "When I think about how I understand my role as citizen, … the most important stuff I've learned I think I've learned from novels. It has to do with empathy. It has to do with being comfortable with the notion that the world is complicated and full of grays, but there's still truth there to be found's possible to connect with some[one] else even though they're very different from you."


It needs to be interesting – self-selection insures this

  1. Lee (2007) RELC Journal, 38(2)
  2. SK in high school: assigned reading vs. self-selected
  3. Garrison Keillor on gift books: "As a former English major I am a sitting duck for gift books, and in the past few years I've gotten Dickens, Thackery, Smollet, Richardson, Emerson, Keats, Boswell and the Brontes, all the them Great, none of them ever read by me, all of them now on a shelf, looking at me and making me feel guilty. "

What ABOUT COMICS?  language

  1. Reading progress: grade 2 & my father
  2. more comic book reading > more reading > more progress
  3. Spider-Man in the (Jr HS) library




used the library daily






Dorrell & Carroll, 1981, SLJ

  1. Desmond Tutu: "One of the things I am most grateful to (my father) for is that, contrary to educational principles, he allowed me to read comics. I think that is how I developed my love for English and for reading."
  2. Ujiie and Krashen (1966) 7th grade boys

More comic book reading > more reading for middle class and low-income boys: low-income comic book readers > middle-income non-comic book readers

  1. Reading level (1978) from Archie (1.8) to Batman (6.4).

But: Secret Wars, 1,2: grade level 12.0

Captain Marvel: H-how'd we get here? I mean one minute we're checking out this giant

watchmacallit in Central Park, then "poof" the final frontier.

Reed Richards: "This much I can tell you, Captain Marvel – this device apparently caused sub-atomic particle dissociation, reducing us to proto-matter, which it stored until it teleported us here, to pre-set coordinates in space, where it reassembled us inside a self-generated life support environment."

The Incredible Hulk: That's obvious, Richards.


Comics as a conduit

rare words per 1000


adults to children


adults to adults


prime time TV


children's books


comic books








Hayes and Ahrens, 1988.


Comics as literature: Do you think life is easy behind this mask? (Spider-Man. #102. 1985)