"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Best Holiday Gift You'll Ever Give...

This is the time of year for people to buy, buy, buy. Real Life and Virtual Retailers count on the Christmas/Holiday season to break into "the black" (Hence, "Black Friday" after Thanksgiving) for the fiscal year.

Every year Americans spend millions on clothes, toys, electronics, gift cards, greeting cards and decorations (among other things). The commercial aspect of the "Holiday Season" is well documented. The frenzy of spending starts earlier and earlier each year.

Every once in a while, though, someone reminds us that gifts don't have to cost a lot of money.

Jesse Turner, the director of the Central Connecticut State Literacy Center Department of Reading Language Arts, has a blog called Children are More Than Test Scores. His entry for today, December 21, 2010, reminded me that amid my thrashing about trying to convince people that NCLB and RttT are going to be the downfall of Public Education in the United States, there is the quiet voice of reason making a suggestion that will do more to educate our children than all the laws and tests will ever do.

When his daughter was 7 years old, in second grade, she brought home a note from her teacher.
The note 14 years ago said: Read to and with your child for some 30 minutes a night. This was the request from Mrs. Crowley her second grade teacher…Her note to parents simply said: read to and with your child for 30 minutes every night. It was hand written something unheard of in these days of the printer rules. Do this to encourage a love of reading, be a ham, play it up, and enjoy every moment.
According to Jim Trelease, author of the Read Aloud Handbook, reading aloud to your children is the single most effective thing that parents (and, I might add, teachers) can do to improve reading skills. He wrote,
Looking at the impact of frequent household reading to preschoolers, the analysis showed clear positive gains for phonemic awareness, language growth and beginning reading skills. In addition, there was just as much of an impact for lower SES children as higher SES, and the earlier or younger the reading began, the better the results. Even when children reach primary grades, research has shown repeat (3) picture book readings increases vocabulary acquisition by 15 to 40 percent, and the learning is relatively permanent. The international assessment of 150,000 fourth-graders in showed an average 35-point advantage for students who were read to more often by parents.
So, here's the gift from Jesse Turner...
...parents, grandparents, guardians read to your children, read to them not to bring up their test scores, not even to make them better readers, but to plant a love of reading.

Let's pass on Mrs. Crowley’s message written from a time when children were more than test scores… Before the race to the top, and before NCLB. Do it to encourage a love of reading, be a ham, play it up, and enjoy every moment..
~~~

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