The Demise of ReadingEditor: It's always sad to read about...


September 24, 1990

The Demise of Reading

Editor: It's always sad to read about falling SAT scores, the rise in television viewership and how reading for fun is becoming progressively endangered practices for many of today's children.

Those of us who learned to enjoy reading as kids before the option of turning on the TV existed might be sympathetic. In our day we turned on the radio for drama, comedy, adventure and music. But radio, even if somewhat addictive then was mainly words -- not at all incompatible with reading.

I came to better appreciate an important pro-reading force popular with the kids of my time -- comic strips.

As a kid in the 1940s, I read ''The Phantom'' comics, created by Lee Falk. I was impressed by the mysterious ''ghost who walks'' a powerful fighter for justice, tribal people and other causes.

Many classic comic strip creators drew inspiration from the short story and radio drama. The result is that comics have always required reading as well as looking. This is not the case with much of today's animated TV comic strips which capture action and movement and so much of kids' time -- some of which could be used for reading.

In addition to helping kids learn to read, the comics can fuel the urge to draw. Many professional artists will admit to early attempts at copying comic strip panels they admired. And even though slavish young copyists are likely unmindful of the tenets of form and stylization they copy, they can get a useful body of effects to employ and build on.

In 1990, ''The Phantom'' still fights on for justice and the environment in The Evening Sun and Sunday Sun and in a hundred other newspapers and comic books. But now, sadly, the Phantom's many readers are almost exclusively adult. This is true for comic strips in general.

Many educators endorse comic strip and comic book reading for kids. So while it's O.K. to see kids enjoying Phantom ice cream bars,it's even nicer to see them reading about him.

I firmly believe that we adults owe it to today's kids to help make sure that more comics as well as ice cream fall into the right hands.

he writer admits of having been an early comic strip copyist as well as the designer of the Phantom ice cream bar.

Donald Berger.

Baltimore. Editor: In his Sept. 2 article, Will Englund summarized the proposals of Dr. Joseph Shilling and the Maryland State Board of Education and then said: ''If all of Dr. Shilling's proposal are carried out, Maryland will in fact be in the forefront of the nation on education reform.''

Shame on you for getting caught up in all of the fanfare and hot air coming out of the Maryland State Board of Education.

A paper of The Sun's caliber is doing a disservice to its readers by publishing fluffy articles void of the hard questions that need to be asked.

The forefront of educational reform these days is associated with parental choice, not the garbage proposed by Dr. Shilling and the Maryland State Board of Education.

Joseph V. Grant.


Fair Furloughs

Editor: Recently most federal employees received a formal notice that we would be subject to a furlough -- up to two days a week without pay for at least the first quarter of the fiscal year. Once again, federal employees are being held hostage to the budget process -- it happens every year. However, this year is more threatening than usual since the furlough proposed represents up to a 40 percent pay cut over the course of the year.

What really seems unfair is the fact that all presidentiaappointees are exempted from furlough, as are members of Congress. In other words, the people who earn the most get no reduction in salary, while the single mother supporting her family at a low pay grade has to choose whether to pay the rent or buy food.

Any furlough should be accompanied by a corresponding reduction in the salaries of Congress, the president, and all the political types that have been placed in office because of their political connections -- one day's pay for them for each day lost by the career employee. If you think that's only fair, let your representative in Congress know how you feel.

Lynn Johnson.


Ward's Words

Editor: What a joke the judges are in dismissing the jurors as to the rape and a shooting murder of a 13-year-old girl because Judge Thomas Ward told the jurors: "In criminal cases it is the job of the prosecution to convict. It is the job of the defense to get his or her client off no matter how. People will try to confuse you and get away from the case."

How honest can you get and make it plain to the jurors of the problems they face. Judge Ward was always straight-forward with people.

The defense attorney that complained was probably trying to stall the trial. No one has anymore honesty, integrity and fairness than Judge Thomas Ward. This is exactly how he got where he is.

Bill Emmons.


No Loser, He Says

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