Extending our reach to the community bTC

November 02, 1997|By Jacqueline Thomas

THE RELATIONSHIP between a newspaper and the community it serves is a frequently complicated and sometimes misunderstood one. All too often, perhaps through our own fault, we are seen as too quick to criticize, too slow to offer constructive solutions to the very real problems that affect this or any other community.

Well, part of our job is to stand apart in order to observe, to analyze, to comment, avoiding the entanglements that would get in the way of those tasks.

Yet that doesn't rule out another part of most newspapers' mission -- trying to make a difference in the lives of our readers and their families.

In embarking on the Reading by 9 project, The Sun may, in the eyes of some journalists, be pushing the boundaries. We have decided we must become involved in addressing one of the most glaring problems facing this nation and, frankly, our industry -- children who aren't learning to read.

That less than one-third of all third-graders in metropolitan Baltimore achieved a "satisfactory" or better reading score on Maryland School Performance Assessment Program (MSPAP) tests is an outrage. Equally scandalous is how little many of us know not only about the scope of the problem but also about possible solutions, including methods for teaching children to read that have proven results, but for one reason or another aren't being used.

Reading by 9 represents a commitment by The Sun of all of its institutional resources -- its daily news columns, its editorial and Opinion Commentary pages and its business operation. Employees of The Sun won't just write about teaching children to read; they'll be in schools throughout the region as tutors.

A commitment

It's a long-term commitment because all of us understand that real change won't happen overnight, that helping parents to develop needed skills, training teachers in proven methods, recruiting volunteers, demanding greater school accountability for student achievement -- all of the elements that can affect a child's learning to read -- won't come easily. That's why you'll be reading and hearing about Reading by 9 at least for the next five years.

You can help shape what you read on this page and in the letters columns of the page to the left. Our mailing address, fax number and e-mail address all appear daily. Let us know what you think.

Jacqueline Thomas is editor of The Sun's editorial page.

Pub Date: 11/02/97

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