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[Susan notes: Another fruitless attempt to get the word about students reading books of their own choice into the Times.]

Submitted to New York Times but not published

To the editor

In “Schools Plan to Pay Cash for Marks” (August 8, 007), Chancellor Joel Klein argues that “no one has figured out how to get more poorer children engaged in learning.”


Decades ago, the premise of a National Defense Education Act summer course at Princeton University was that movies could drive poor, urban students’ reading. One day all students bused in from Trenton received "On the Waterfront" and watched the movie; the next day they received a Steinbeck novel and watched the movie; and so on--for weeks.

Every day kids carried their accumulated piles of shiny, new books to school, and while the new movie was playing they stuck their noses in a previous day's book of their choice. Of their choice.

Moral: Give kids access to powerful books and opportunity to read them, and they will come to school every day and read in the dark.

New York City is slated to spend $53 million on a program designed by an economist. Think about how many books that would buy.

Susan Ohanian

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