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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