Thursday, October 20, 2005

Reading and Righting

Of all the sad stories in current events, perhaps none is more discouraging to me than the news that America's children are poor readers, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

To quote from the report:

"To me, this goes beyond disappointing," said former West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance For Excellent Education, an advocacy group that promotes high school reforms. "It shows that we are failing to gain ground on the very conditions we need to reverse to improve our graduation rates and produce more students who are ready for college and the workforce."

No matter what educational or career path a young person chooses, he or she will not succeed without good reading skills. That's not being dramatic; it's just common sense. If you can't read, you can't study. If you can't study, you won't learn. And if you don't learn, your choices in life are limited at best.

Aside from the practical necessity of reading, the joy of it is also missing from these young lives. The limitless possibilities of thought and the delightful journeys of imagination that reading offers are closed to those who don't read. If I had a dollar for every hour I've spent immersed in a good book, I'd be retired by now. To know that some young people do not have the option of reading, either for fun or to further themselves along life's highway, is a depressing thought indeed.

The schools can't do it alone. Parents are vital to a child's learning to read. Mom or Dad setting aside ten minutes for reading the kids a bedtime story is more important to a child's reading development than a full hour spent with the teacher in reading class. When new parents ask me the secret to raising their babies to be successul young people, I tell them to read bedtime stories every night. I can say truthfully that bedtime stories worked for me--both as a child and as a parent.

The proof is in the pudding. I read that somewhere.