Thursday, November 29, 2007

hooked on reading worked for me

probably the single most powerful influence that set the course of my life was growing up in a household of readers. both my parents read and read to me. as a minister, my father’s professional tools were not wrenches or calipers, but paper and ink. my mother’s background was in education. a family of modest means, we did not have lots of extravagances. but there was always money for books. as a professional educator myself, i’ve been to about 15 years worth of meetings where folks hash out the problems of the educational system in the united states, looking for the silver bullet that is going to stamp out ignorance. new math, phonics, direct instruction, technology in the classroom, experiential learning. and most importantly, more money.

however, despite years of trying new classroom management skill and curriculum strategies coupled with millions of wasted dollars, a recent report from the national endowment for the arts, reveals that “Americans — particularly young Americans — appear to be reading less for fun, and as that happens, their reading test scores are declining. At the same time, performance in other academic disciplines like math and science is dipping for students whose access to books is limited, and employers are rating workers deficient in basic writing skills.”

this certainly should come as no surprise. what is shocking is that the national endowment for the arts’ findings lifts the veil which hides two dirty little secrets that have derailed progress in american education. the report states that “In seeking to detail the consequences of a decline in reading, the study showed that reading appeared to correlate with other academic achievement. In examining the average 2005 math scores of 12th graders who lived in homes with fewer than 10 books, an analysis of federal Education Department statistics found that those students scored much lower than those who lived in homes with more than 100 books. Although some of those results could be attributed to income gaps, Mr. Iyengar noted that students who lived in homes with more than 100 books but whose parents only completed high school scored higher on math tests than those students whose parents held college degrees (and were therefore likely to earn higher incomes) but who lived in homes with fewer than 10 books.” this finding reveals that the silver bullet which will solve the educational crisis in america is not a technique or money. instead, the solution resides at home. if parents would simply take the responsibility and the time to read to their kids and instill the love of reading for readings sake, i contend quality in america’s classrooms would rise as would test scores across the board.


Bezner said...

We've had this conversation multiple times, so you already know my take on this...

But, dang, I totally agree.

If we don't produce a culture of reading within our homes, then kids won't read outside of the home.

Without being too specific, I know one intelligent high schooler that spends almost zero time reading. His test scores are way below where they should be, despite a great home.

I'm certain there are fewer than 100 books in his house.

How do we turn this thing around?

e. l. wood said...

dang. there's the rub, no? very few in my current college level soph. lit classes would know the aforementioned cliche is from hamlet, so you may be asking the wrong guy. i'm setting my sights on getting folk to acknowledge the problem is one that starts at home, not in the classroom. that is my main goal. if we admit this, then the solutions can be any number of creative solutions.

superdog87 said...

As a student who sees the need for better education, I would have to agree with you. First, I think parents don't spent enough time with there kids. If parents would increase in a child's life, the education problem would be well on the way to recovery. With parents spending more time with the children, the education system could come up with ways to then motivate parents! Shape the time spent with children into reading and educational events and not T.V. and so on. That is my input on the situation.

Most politicians seems to just throw money around to please people. The money is not monitored correctly. I'm all for more spending on education, but the schools need to at least show some kind of education improvement. I think schools would try harder with a admin pay cut (principals, directors, deans), or budget cut for certain extra projects (landscaping, furniture for office, trips, or "going green"), for not educating students properly. Hmm. It's a thought. That's my input, even though you didn't ask for it. :-)

Later - Kevin B. (The awesome curly head guy)

Cole said...

Finally--finally the NEA turns out to be good for something other than paying artists to smear feces on canvas and call it "art" at my expense. Don't misunderstand--I don't think the wisdom from this report redeems the NEA, but at LEAST they are publishing something that makes sense.

e. l. wood said...

superdog - thanks for the post. it is good to hear a student's perspective. cole - that is one of the ironies here - the NEA got it right - but i'm wondering if they even see what it is that they've exposed.