Reading & Poverty

Brown and Krashen in 2005 described a simple, logical suggestion: “We can improve the achievement of all students by providing a print-rich environment in school.”  If the answer is so simple, why aren’t we creating opportunities for kids to read?  Why are we de-funding libraries?

Students are continuing in a catch 22: they have to read to get out of poverty, but they can’t read because of poverty-related obstacles.  Students are being told they should read… but what books and how?

We tell them to read over the summer, but they’re hungry.  We tell them to read but they can’t afford glasses.  We tell them to read when they’re expected to watch siblings while parents work late.  We tell them to read even when they work- whether they’re legal age or not.  We tell them to read when they’re migrant, unaccompanied minors, homeless or doubled-up with no safe, quiet place.

We tell them to read, but only the more “academic” books on the schools’s approved reading list.  We tell them to read so they can go to college when they know they can’t afford it.

We tell them to read even though some economically depressed school libraries don’t allow children to check out books, or have very limited selection.  We tell them to read, then fire the librarians who guide them to books.

We tell them to read but don’t help them read.


Published by

Claire Walter

I am an ESL teacher and I promote differentiated, compassionate instruction and assessment for English Language Learners.

2 thoughts on “Reading & Poverty”

  1. Claire….can you share any success stories of ways that you provide reading books to your ELs that are both of their interest and at their reading level? Thanks for your help. Loving & appreciating everything that you write! -Janelle


    1. Thanks so much! I love books, so I could blog about them all day! The easiest high-interest, low-reading level books to use are graphic novels. I just had a bunch of kids groan when we had to put away American Born Chinese by Gene Yang. I have a fun system for using wordless graphic novels that I’ll be sharing soon. The sky’s the limit in terms of books, magazines, or blogs to provided highly compelling stories or nonfiction text.


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