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[Susan notes: Here's another important issue: Pushing hot house academics lower and lower.]

Submitted to Houston Chronicle but not published

To the editor

Re: "School will be harder" in HISD (Feb. 18, 2004)

HISD's decision to make "pre-advanced placement"

classes in English mandatory for sixth graders will undoubtedly result in reports that sixth graders are unprepared for this course, and we need to start even earlier: How about pre-AP third grade? Kindergarten? Pre-school?

HISD Assistant Principal Robert Kimball is right: We need to first ensure that all children achieve basic literacy. Research and common-sense both conclude that the best way to insure adequate literacy development for all children is to make sure they have the opportunity to do a great deal of recreational, self-selected reading. And the best way to make sure this happens is to have excellent school libraries, with lots of good books and with credentialed librarians. It is well-established that libraries are the only source of books for children of poverty.

Ironically, providing a print-rich environment is also the best way to prepare students for AP exams. Those who have read widely on their own are very well prepared for the "serious" study of literature.

Stephen Krashen, Emeritus Professor, USC

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