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Learn to Read by Reading

September 22, 1985

The Times article (Sept. 6) on reading confirms what we as librarians know. Children cannot read because they do not spend enough time reading. A child becomes a good reader only by reading. Librarians know that children who love books will read. Children learn to love books when stories are read to them, and when they have access to books they want to read.

We must acknowledge the sad fact that although we pay lip service to reading it is not a valued activity. Most parents do not read to their children and do not provide an example for their children to value books or reading by having books at home or by reading themselves.

A Gallup Poll taken during the 1970s of elementary students revealed that 82% had not read a book in the same month they watched 100 hours of television. Recent surveys indicate that by the time students are in high school they have watched more than 18,000 hours of television. In the 1980s there is the added distraction of video tapes.

The school-wide reading programs that were implemented in all elementary schools during 1984, and will be implemented in secondary schools during this school year, to improve reading are doomed to fail unless they substantially increase the amount of time students spend in reading, and unless teachers and administrators convince students that reading is an important activity.

If the Los Angeles Unified School District is serious about improving reading, it needs to implement the following proposals to respond to changing conditions in the society which operate against reading.

Mandate a daily reading period when elementary teachers will read stories to their students. Schedule daily reading periods in the classroom for all elementary school students to read books that they have chosen. Assign daily "reading for enjoyment" homework to all students. Require all students to read a certain number of books each semester, which they will select from bibliographies of enjoyable literature. Open every elementary library and staff it with a credentialed librarian. (At the present time there are virtually no elementary libraries with credentialed librarians.)

This can be the beginning of a total commitment to reading that is needed to improve the dismal district reading scores, and that will prevent students from dropping out of school because they cannot read.


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