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Publication Date: 2004-02-26

A Maryland mom reflects on the story her first grader read in school.

When was the last time you used the words "yawl," "prawn," and "awning" in a conversation with another adult, let alone with a first grader? I look at the material my child is given to read in school and wonder: Will seven year olds be able to recognize the "aw" sound after reading this "decodable book" from the Bush administration-mandated Open Court collection from McGraw Hill--after they come out of their comas?

Maybe. I wonder at what price this skill will come. Will they see books as something wonderful and exciting? Will they be anxious to dive into another book in this series?

You be the judge.

Sailor Paul and the Crabs

Sailor Paul liked to catch crabs that crawl in the sea. Paul went out in his yawl. It was a small fishing boat named Awful Annie. He caught crabs in big nets and then hauled in his catch. But he never trapped a single crab.

With a big yawn [which is exaclty what the kids are doing at this point] he set out to sea at dawn. "I'm going to catch a crab today!" yelled Sailor Paul. Soon his nets were full and taut, and Paul hauled them up on deck.

"Get away, silly squid," scolded Sailor Paul. "Don't sprawl on my yawl. I catch crabs, not squid."

When his nets were full again, Paul pulled them quickly in. "I'm fishing for crabs, not shark!" yelled Sailor Paul. "Get off my deck if you don't want a brawl!" Sailor Paul fished and fished. He netted ten tuna, five whales, and a hundred prawns. But he did not catch one crab.

"I'll catch some crabs if it's the last thing I do," said Sailor Paul. When rain began falling, Sailor Paul put an awning on his deck. The sea became wild and awful, but Paul would not quit. At last his nets were full, and Paul began pulling and pulling.

"Perhaps I don't really want crabs at all..." said Sailor Paul.

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