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Teaching Reading

September 20, 1998

* Kudos to The Times for its commitment to reading instruction and literacy ("A Long Road Back From Reading Crisis" and editorial, Sept. 13). It has been lonely teaching reading in high school these past 20 years. I missed your voice when I saw the elementary districts eliminate reading specialists to save money. And it was a rough battle when the state tried to make reading instruction literature-based.

I am expected to teach twice as many students per hour as when I started. My first years, I had 15 students in a reading class and could tutor each one individually. Schools now typically have anywhere from 30 to 39 per period. Welcome to the fight for literacy!

JIM KILROY

Fountain Valley

*

We are told that reading scores are low in California due to a lack of phonics instruction. But Mississippi, which has had a heavy emphasis on phonics for years, scores at equally abysmal levels. Children in both states have something more important in common: They have nothing to read.

There are three places students typically get books to read: at home, in school and at the public library. Now consider California's record. If you're poor, you can't afford a lot of books at home. Child poverty rates increased 25% from 1989 to 1993, putting us among the bottom 10 states. After a steady rise throughout the 1980s, personal income also began dropping in 1988-89, slipping to 1984 levels by the early 1990s. Meanwhile, public library book budgets in the state began to plummet in 1989, diving 25% by 1993, with children's services hit the hardest. As for our schools, California's classroom and school libraries are the absolute worst in the nation.

California's reading ills are financial, not phonological.

JEFF McQUILLAN

Assistant Professor, Education

Cal State Fullerton

*

As a classroom teacher, I appreciated your editorial. You explained why daily conversations between parents and their children and regular read-aloud sessions are such effective ways to enhance reading skills and turn preschool and school-age children into lifelong readers. Parents who value reading and enjoy reading themselves are most likely to produce children who read fluently.

Teachers have received more than their share of criticism about students' limited reading skills. At a time when, to many, computer literacy seems to take precedence over reading books, classroom teachers have a difficult role. Without the support of parents, teachers who teach reading face an almost insurmountable task.

MONIKA BROOME

Fullerton

*

As a student of a "failed" reading program when I was a child, I can say it causes a lifetime of problems. The taxpayers should demand that our money be used correctly to teach this most important of all skills. Phonics and English should be the mainstay of all reading programs. You can't enjoy great books if you can't read and understand the words.

The top educators should accept their responsibility for the last decade of learning-disabled students and repay us by teaching in the prisons.

VIRGINIA L. SIGL

Venice

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