Don't hurt good readers

LETTERS

help those who need it I am a...

September 16, 2001

Don't hurt good readers; help those who need it

I am a reading specialist. Stephen Kiehl ("Arundel pupils hit the books - harder," Sept. 2) doesn't understand the issue concerning electives and reading in middle school.

Reading and language activities are much like riding a bike. Basic skills must be mastered and maintained.

However, it is a boring waste of time to practice the same skills unless one wants to be Lance Armstrong and devote his life to the bike!

Effective reading comes from having curiosity, a purpose, a destination, and a reason to enjoy the ride! By actively exposing children to electives such as music, singing, painting, drawing, art appreciation and performing, children can find those reasons.

Certified teachers of "elective" courses have college degrees and background in reading techniques and can monitor and encourage reading and other language activities, too.

Non-literacy cannot be fought by putting children in a room and assigning books or writing passages. Has your writer ever taught a class in a small, hot room with 35 students sitting on hard, uncomfortable chairs with no air-conditioning, no windows and poor lighting?

There might be a few cozy reading nooks in our public schools, but I haven't seen them during my long career. A "reading class" for 100 minutes could be dreadful.

Students at Southern Middle preview books and look at their pictures. The language teacher reads aloud to the class to improve comprehension. Students read silently for 25 minutes.

My daughters accomplished these skills by third grade! Why would they be placed in a class to learn basic skills they know? There are high school remedial classes for students who need to pass math competency tests.

I suggest that middle school students take a standardized test for reading and language ability. If students need help, form classes to reinforce those skills.

Is the school administration afraid that students with less reading and language ability will feel punished by having to take more such classes instead of electives in the curriculum?

Well, just consider how the good reader feels when having to take another period of reading every day!

Shirley Little

Annapolis

New superintendent must champion students

In a new superintendent, Anne Arundel should seek someone with the courage and creativity to help the able students and help mediocre students become able, someone who will:

1. Put a 35-station computer lab with certified instructor in every elementary and middle school which has a large number of minority students - who often lack a computer at home.

2. Require phonics in teaching reading. Can you believe we're still fighting this issue?

3. Put all middle schools on a seven-period schedule to ease the electives problem.

4. Exempt middle school students with high reading proficiency from the extra reading class so they can take more electives in computer, music, and art.

5. Expand and improve [Superintendent Carol S.] Parham's AVID program, which in elementary and middle schools identifies potentially able students, i.e., bright children with undeveloped skills, and builds those skills so the students qualify for honors, AP and IB courses in high schools.

6. Increase Advanced Placement offerings in high schools and establish the International Baccalaureate program at Severna Park for north county and at South River for south county.

7. Pay the test fees for all students in AP and IB courses. This will encourage more students to take the courses and will allow the requirement that all students in the courses take the tests.

A few years ago, paying the fees was sacrificed as a budget cut.

8. Pay AP and IB teachers' way to conferences where they grade sample tests and thus learn how to better prepare their students.

This, too, has been sacrificed as a budget cut.

Anne Arundel has many able students and many who could be were they encouraged. ... It's time they had more access to the school dollar.

It's time for a superintendent who will be their champion.

J.A. Hoage

Severna Park

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