Pupils teach Glendening a lesson in reading Children help governor promote literacy initiative

December 06, 1997|By Debbie M. Price | Debbie M. Price,SUN STAFF

Tiny Tyrika Washington, her hair in pigtails, her blue school jumper skirt spread around her knees, sat up straight and read for the governor of Maryland, one perfect word stringing neatly into the next.

She read from the governor's favorite children's book, a book she had never seen before. She read just the way she reads every day in class, confident and sure, not flustered in the least by the cameras and all the big people leaning over her.

The governor, a teacher once and a father still, sat cross-legged on the floor and watched, pulling in his breath ever so slightly as the 6-year-old came to the words that routinely trip up children older than she.

"Boa constrictor," Tyrika said, pausing only as a careful driver might for a speed bump.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening smiled broadly. "How did you know that? Did you sound it out?"

Tyrika nodded and kept going.

Glendening and others came to the Perkins Homes recreation center in East Baltimore yesterday to read to more than 75 children from City Springs Elementary School. The reading event, one of two organized simultaneously at Perkins Homes and across town at the Washington Boulevard/Pigtown Village Center by Maryland New Directions, was meant to promote the governor's initiative, "Reading with Your Child."

But it was the children, selected from various classes at City Springs, who stole the show, reading to their sponsors.

They plowed through "The Day Jimmy's Boa Constrictor Ate the Wash" by Trinka Hakes Noble -- the governor's favorite -- and they started on their own new books, donated by Barnes & Noble.

And the children in the governor's circle got an impromptu lesson in statesmanship from Glendening, who for the moment seemed more teacher than politician, sitting cross-legged and relaxed on the floor.

"You know what?" Glendening said, "My wife says to me, 'A fish would never get in trouble if he kept his mouth closed.' "

Glendening, who has been reading weekly to children at University Park Elementary School in Prince George's County since his son, Raymond, now 18, was in kindergarten there, seemed surprised and pleased that the City Springs children knew how to "sound out" words.

"Both as a teacher and a parent, I could see a difference in the way these children were reading," said Glendening. "They were reading fluently, quite well. They were practicing phonics."

For Principal Bernice Whelchel and teachers at City Springs, who two years ago adopted the phonics-based Direct Instruction program sponsored by the private Abell Foundation, it was an affirming moment. Their students not only were behaving well and minding their manners but they also were reading and reading well.

None of the school's third-graders scored "satisfactory" on the reading portion of the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program test in 1996. As the school awaits 1997 scores, expected next week, it measures progress in the growing number of children who have moved from one reading '' level to the next. Some of the children, such as Tyrika, a first-grader who reads with a second-grade class, have jumped ahead a grade level.

Across the state, two-thirds of Maryland's third-graders failed to meet the state's standard for reading on the MSPAP, a failing that educators and the governor have vowed to correct.

"We have to keep pushing, investing until we find that formula that works for each child," said Glendening. "Our goal is for each child to read to his or her full potential and I would add -- enthusiastically."

Pub Date: 12/06/97

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