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[Susan notes: The writer is a recent recipient of the University Provost 2008 Distinguished Achievement in Research, Scholarship or Creative Activities. There are so many quotable lines. Here's one:

Reading is not a competition, it is a joy and a lifelong learning tool.

Use the insights from this letter in letters to your own local papers.]

Published in Fresno Bee

To the editor

Derek Boucher's op-ed piece "'Reading First' is a costly failure" did a wonderful job of explaining a complex issue. Here is a situation where the solution (lockstep learning, in which all children are expected to learn the same thing at the same minute, regardless of their developmental stages) is worse than the problem (schools serving impoverished students have lower reading scores). Quantifying everything, relying on standardized tests, and using scores to grade schools and teachers, have driven good teachers from the profession and weakened our educational system. Reading is not a competition, it is a joy and a lifelong learning tool. These practices teach students that reading is a mind-numbing chore.

Let's opt our children out of testing. Let's hold babies on our laps and read them picture books. Let's have students write sequels to stories or act out alternative versions. Let's ask them "Why is this book funny?" or "What other book is this like?" and let's listen to their answers. Let's rehire California's laid-off school librarians; access to libraries with librarians is proved to raise reading levels. Let's have teachers evaluate students using multiple methods. Let's teach children to read and think. Let's start by dumping Reading First.

Angelica Carpenter, Curator

Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children's Literature

California State University, Fresno

Angelica Carpenter

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