David writes about reading “authentic resources”


I’m sorry that I didn’t get a chance to see your Readicide presentation at NTPRS this year, though I did look at it online. I really enjoyed your presentations on reading last year.
I had a question that I thought you might be able to help me with. In my school we are moving the way of ACFTL and there is an (unhealthy, in my mind) focus on “authentic resources” which are created by authors in the target language for an audience in the target language.  My issue is that the comprehensiblity of such texts is not seen as particularly important.  I know that I have read (I think from you) that readers need to understand 90 or 95% of the words of a text to effectively read it.  I am wondering if you have any idea where that number comes from, if there is any research that backs it up that I can use in my defense of comprehensible readers.
Dave Talone
Hi Dave,

Good to hear from you.  The 90-95% number comes from various works by Stephen Krashen, PhD., especially in The Power of Reading. 
The whole “authentic materials” movement is not helpful. Authentic materials purists argue that only materials written in the TL by natives and intended for natives are valuable for language learning. A good argument against this strong position is that we have leveled readers for students in English, so why not for a second language students? There are books that are written in a high-interest, low readability format for our struggling English readers, so why not for our second language readers as well? Authentic reading is a goal, but we want them to engage with the text and not merely just scan it or attempt to decode parts of it, which is what I have seen too many of my students do when they are forced to read above their level with “authentic materials”.
Do this make sense? If my answer is not complete enough let me know and you and I can brainstorm some more on it.
Best regards,