R. Sabine: Teach the children to read

Today's schoolchildren can’t read. Most people would prefer not to know that, but like unpleasant engine noises, it shouldn’t be ignored.

Less than half the high school juniors are proficient in critical reading and half of high school graduates who enter community college need remedial courses. A generation or more ago, that wasn’t a problem, or, if it was, I was not aware of it. Why is there a problem now?

Children no longer read for entertainment. Similarly, a young musician who ignores his violin and leaves it undisturbed on a closet shelf will not improve. When I was a boy (in the 1940s), books transported me and other children to exciting and mysterious places. We encountered new ideas and new words. The act of reading, even for pleasure, improved our ability, speed and comprehension.

Schoolchildren should read. The school day should be lengthened by an hour each morning and by an hour each afternoon and allow students to read to their own interest and ability.

That need not be expensive; the city annually spends $10,000 to $13,000 per student. Students could be enabled to read for a pittance. Someone to monitor (solely to quell youthful mayhem) a classroom of 30 readers would cost perhaps $15 per hour plus benefits. With two reading periods a day it would cost about one dollar per day, per student (plus benefits). Well, maybe it would cost a little bit more, most everything does, but what could be lost by trying, except ignorance?

Richard Sabine, Lewiston

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 's picture

Because children can't read or think critically

they will always be subject to being used and defrauded. We can see that politically everyday. The lies, misrepresentations, and deceptions of politics have always been with us but now more and more people are victims of the propaganda. Everyone thinks they are a Constitutional expert and can quote the Founders on every question. Yet not 1 in a 100 understands anything about the Constitution or the circumstances that brought it about. And if they did they would wrap what little they know in 21st century dressings taking the real message out of context. We see this in so many political debates.


Improving public education

As somebody who has spent a lot of time in a city public school I have developed opinions on what would benefit academic excellence in students. Most of all better teacher training especially requiring more stringent academics in English, math, science and other core subjects as well as more mentoring in the first years of teaching would help a lot. Secondly we need a huge revamp of the high school curriculum. It is so outdated as not to be funny. Thirdly we need to decide if we want schools to teach academic excellence or job skills or to be babysitting or learning to pass standardized tests. Those are very different outcomes. To me social skills, job skills and test taking skills will come automatically if we start by giving our students real academics and the desire to learn. To accomplish this requires trained teachers not just inexpensive or dedicated teachers and more time on learning academics not just to an introductory level but to a level of proficiency and not just time spent sitting on a school chair but time working and individualized learning not learning to answer specific questions on a test and meaningful learning not just the curriculum that was taught 25 years ago.


While I agree that the kids

While I agree that the kids today need to learn the basics of reading AND math, I do not agree that lengthening the school day is the answer. Most kids are bored with the time they are actually in school now. So much is crammed into what hours they are in school that do not actually have anything to do with the real world while leaving the basics at the door. The teachers are having to teach to standardized tests which leaves teaching the basics on the back burner. And what about parents? The parents also need to take responsibility in teaching children the basics. A parent that reads at home and makes their child(ren) read at home is more apt to have proficient readers.

When I went to school there were subjects that were "elective" that I could choose to take in place of a study hall. These subjects were music, art, band, chorus, a foreign language, etc. Some of these subjects are now taught as a mandatory class in the middle school (I am not sure about the high school at this time). Maybe the solution is two fold....stop the standardized testing and make the "elective" classes elective again. While this second option may bring disfavor from those that believe the arts are important, I would rather see our children able to be proficient in math and reading before worrying about whether or not they can make an item out of clay or draw a picture, whether they can sing a song or play an instrument, or if they can speak and write Spanish and French. If they cannot read and write in English, the least of our worries should be a foreign language ability.

While the extra classes may be worthwhile to some, to others it takes away from the ability to actually focus on learning the basics.


The real world

Maybe somebody should take a look at the real world of work today. Not much happens there that isn't connected to a computer. As somebody who is having to learn new computer skills all the time, like telecommuting, I can attest that it is not the kids who don't have the work skills it is the seniors. And by the way. Do you know what is on those tablets? You guessed it. Books. Teaching the kids of today the work skills of the 19th century is doing them no favors.

AL PELLETIER's picture

I don't disagree, Claire

But I think by the time students reach high school they should have mastered the basics that will allow them to function in society without a machine doing the thinking for them. Once the three R's are mastered and they know how to count back change, then bring on the electronic thinking and communication devices.
PS. I do use spell check often.
Enjoy this beautiful day and lets get back to Lepage bashing.

AL PELLETIER's picture

Wishful thinking, Richard

Realistically it's far easier to put a laptop or tablet in front of a student and let the machine do the basics. Taking away their gadgets is like taking a fish out of water in the real world.
You and I are from the old school of the three R's. By the time we were juniors in high school or fate was written. College, military, live off mommy and daddy or become reliant on taxpayers. Fortunately, college or the military were the preferred choices. Today it seems like the last two choices are the norm.
I guess someday you and I will grow up and become as smart as they are.


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