Author criticizes focus on testing
By Tim Yovich
HOWLAND — Teaching pupils to pass proficiency tests detracts from the creativity of their teachers, says a noted author of children's books.
Patricia Polacco spoke to pupils at H.C. Mines and Glen elementary schools Thursday, bringing some of her 56 published books alive to them.
Polacco is in the area along with fellow authors Carl Anderson, Max Brand, Will Hillenbrand, Herman Parish and Hazel Sheppard as part of the Trumbull County Literacy Conference being held Saturday at Lakeview High School.
Polacco said she believes teachers could once use their creativity to teach, but the No Child Left Behind program has stifled them.
If teaching to the proficiency tests continues, the 61-year-old author stressed, at-risk students will soon outnumber those making the grade.
"Testing the kids ain't doing it," she said.
Polacco draws on her personal experiences, having lived in an urban setting in California for 40 years and Union City, Mich., which she now calls home.
Polacco has an unusual background as an author and illustrator, having several learning disabilities.
At age 4, she could draw a floor plan with elevations, but couldn't read or do math until she was 14.
Polacco explained that she was depressed and disabled until a teacher, George Falker, brought her out of her difficulties.
When she reads now, she sees the white around the words rather than the words themselves.
She used her experience with her former teacher to write the noted book "Thank You, Mr. Falker."
Polacco said she comes from a family of storytellers who helped her in her profession. Twenty years ago when she put her stories together with illustrations, her mother took her to New York City, where Polacco sold all 16 children's books she had written up to then but couldn't get published.
Value of teachers
Polacco terms teachers and schools as the "last heroes."
"Let teachers do their jobs," noting they know their jobs best because they spend the most time with the children.
Polacco believes that intervention centers should be established because some parents are "clueless" about how to rear their children.
"These girls have no idea how to feed their children," she said, adding that too many parents don't teach their children right from wrong, and don't mentor or read to them.
She advises parents to turn off the television, computer and cell phone and read to and with their children.
"Once they have that start, you can't turn them off," Polacco said. "People don't realize how important it is to read to a child."
"Books will take you anywhere. It's where your dreams can come true," she said, adding that reading gives a child "sanity and security."
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