One cannot help but ask the Mexican educational system, “How is it possible that I hand over a child for six hours every day, five days a week, and you give me back someone who is basically illiterate?”
A few years back, I spoke with the education secretary of my home state, Nuevo León, about reading in schools. He looked at me, not understanding what I wanted. “In school, children are taught to read,” he said. “Yes,” I replied, “but they don’t read.” I explained the difference between knowing how to read and actually reading, between deciphering street signs and accessing the literary canon. He wondered what the point of the students’ reading “Don Quixote” was. He said we needed to teach them to read the newspaper.
The US is very different from Mexico, but I'm afraid that the Common Core and other Ed Reform efforts are taking us in the wrong direction. We, too, can learn from Toscana's prescription: give kids enjoyable books and time to read. Thousands of our children are not getting that, and thousands of our kids are, in themselves, little countries that don't read.