Thursday, May 30, 2013

Front-page NYT article on raising reading scores never mentions actually reading

Today's paper of record has a front-page story about how much "easier" it is to improve student scores in math than in reading.  Predictably, the article mentions many specific skills and "concepts", but never explicitly mentions what would seem the most important factor: time spent actually reading.

The story describes lessons on close reading and inferences, it discusses acting out the dialogue in books, and it mentions narrative perspectives, subtext, character motivation, vocabulary, background knowledge, sentence length, text density, and cultural deficits.  It talks about the enormous differences in how much "literacy" children are exposed to outside of school.  But none of the teachers and experts quoted in the article suggests that perhaps the best way to raise reading scores is to have kids actually read.

A few months ago the same newspaper published an op-ed by a Mexican novelist, David Toscana, who asked a very important question:

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 Le√≥n, 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.” 

Too often, this is true in America as well. Our schools have our children six hours a day for twelve years. That is a lot of time. Let the kids read!

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