Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Thousands of little countries that don't read

There's an interesting op-ed in the Times today about reading in Mexico ("The Country that Stopped Reading").  Its author, David Toscana, an eminent Mexican novelist, argues that his native country, which took next-to-last place in a Unesco survey of reading habits, ought to encourage a love of reading by providing students with enjoyable and compelling texts and giving them time to read in school:

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. 

When my daughter was 15, her literature teacher banished all fiction from her classroom. “We’re going to read history and biology textbooks,” she said, “because that way you’ll read and learn at the same time.”

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 directionWe, 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment