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[Susan notes: GREAT letter! The author nails the issue.]

Published in New York Times

To the editor

Re "Colleges Struggle to Help Black Men Stay Enrolled" (front page, Dec. 30):

As a high school English teacher who has taught many black, inner-city teenagers over the last 20 years, I agree that a major reason for their failure in school has to do with social issues.

But there is an even more important reason: poor reading skills. My students come to class hating to read because they have never seen written material they considered interesting. When they're given books or magazines about music or sports or inner-city life, they become so absorbed that they hardly hear the bell ring.

If this had happened in first grade, they would have become top students by high school.

Mary Leonhardt

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