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Saturday, November 13, 2010

How to build a culture of illiteracy

I was visiting my 5 year old grandson this week and he showed me the two books he had been assigned to read by his kindergarten teacher. Milo reads fairly well for a five year old, but this had nothing to do with his two months of kindergarten. I was surprised to see that they are teaching kindergarten kids to read. I guess the obsession with test scores has made New York City push the kids harder and faster. I would rather see him be doing other things in school but there is no harm in teaching him to read. Or so I thought, until I had him read these two books to me.

The first was about a nonsensical creature called a jiggeridoo. All the sentences were of the sort "jiggeridoos like to play." Each page had a picture and a sentence like that. I was bored and so was he. What happened to the idea that reading should be fun and even remotely educational. What was he learning from reading this nonsense?

The second book made me long for the first one.

The second was about a character named Eddy, who like to eat things based on their shape apparently. So Milo was busy sounding out words like square or triangle because pizza is triangular in shape. This book was both boring and annoying. It obviously was trying to teach shapes which is a dull, and rather unimportant task, and was doing so through a ridiculous book.

From this Milo is learning that books are boring and tedious. He will survive this because his parents are literate and will be his real teachers. But I started worrying about kids who have parents who don't encourage reading at home. The message the school is sending is that reading is a useless experience teaching nothing worth knowing. No wonder illiteracy is such an issue these days.

Perhaps we should stop worrying about test scores and start worrying about whether kids like to read. Just a thought.

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