Tuesday, August 19, 2008

For the Love of Reading

I have decided something. According to my experiences in public school, both as a student and as a teacher, I have decided that public school kids are very nearly illiterate. I'm not talking about your kid if you have children in public school. I'm talking about my experience as compared to homeschooling.

This thought first began to form in my brain at the beginning of the summer when I was looking for book lists. I wanted to find suggested lists of children's books so that when we went to the library we didn't wander around and come home with the same old things we always did. Well, during my research I stumbled on a book list from a public school. At the bottom of the list it said something about how the goal of their school district was for each student to read 25 books during the course of the year.

Then, I ran across Sprittibee's list of books read when her children were in first and second grade homeschool. There were 412 books listed!!!!! Folks, that is a huge difference.

So, I thought back to my own experiences as a first grade teacher. I read a big book with the class each day. I probably read another book to them during the course of the morning, and we read a chapter of a chapter book each day after lunch. Other than that, they read "little books" which were leveled books used to teach reading. They are about 8 pages each. Students read anywhere from 2-7 of those a day. Then they had to read some little books for homework. And besides reading directions off the board (which were also read to them) and words off of the word wall, that was about the extent of their reading during the day at school.

When I taught 3rd grade we had D.E.A.R time each day (Drop Everything And Read) but there was no guarantee that students were reading. Mostly they were sitting quietly with a book open because that's what they were told to do. They had reading assignments that we all read together one painful paragraph at a time because there were 22 different reading levels in the room. I read chapters and chapters to them each day after lunch. BUT, that was soon over as more and more classtime was sucked up by the state test. The last few years I taught, I'm not sure those kids heard a story read to them all year. They read reading passages for practice, and they participated in the library incentive reading program. Before that reading program at my school, students were allowed to check out one library book per week which they were not allowed to take home. I'm not even kidding. I took a survey each year I taught and probably only 10% of my class had a library card.

Some of that is because of where I taught. Some of that is a fact of public schools today. Recess was cut to 10 minutes per day. Some teachers would save up and go every other day for 20 minutes so it would even be worth their time to line up at the door. There just was no time for "frivolous" things like recess and reading. It wasn't always like that--but it is now.

I'm not saying parents can't do something about this. Your home can be as literate as you want it to be. I'm just amazed at the difference between homeschooling and what I know of public school.

There is so much more than passing the state test. There is the knowledge gleaned from reading. There is the freedom to browse and choose books just because you are interested in them. There is the love of reading. There is the cuddle factor. There is SO MUCH that is important about reading. Wonder when schools will wake up?


  1. I have kids who love to be read to and kids who love to read so much I have to practically kick them off the couch to go outside! Can you imagine? "Please put the book away and go play!" It's true. I'm so blessed to have a house full of book and story lovers!

    Thank you so much for your encouraging blog. I've finally added you to my blog roll. Keep up the awesome work!

  2. As always, well said Brenda. You are spot on with this one.

    P.S. Oh, and those books from my classroom library that my students were "reading" during D.E.A.R. time? Big Sis is devouring them now. Finally they are being used. :)

  3. So interesting and so true. I hated to read. I like it a little bit now, but only if it's a book I consider an "easy read." But, still....I probably finish one novel a year. Maybe. I read books to Lorelai daily, though. When you said 25 books a year, I thought "wow, that's a lot." I have a lot of learning and growing to do before this whole home schooling thing starts!!!

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  5. Well, I'll tell you.... here in Louisiana it isn't much better. In fact, our state had a goal of so many words read per minute for some type of testing and so the teachers were instructed to have the child simply wave his hand when he came to a word he didn't know and keep going. So they basically were just passing that word up! This greatly increased the "scores" but made for a very angry mom when I found out what was happening.

    We have amazing teachers and of course, some who just work for a paycheck, but they all work for a flawed system. Even as a homeschool parent I am pro-active in the happenings of our school district because things must change for these kids. If only one parent hears my plea and begins to take responsibility for their child's education, even if they remain in public school, then it is worth it.

    Without reading there is no foundation. Great post! Kudos to you!

  6. I am so drawn into your words here. Thankyou so much for the time you put into these heartfelt sentences...

    I can see the HUGE difference in my children with reading and the public schooled children they play with. It makes me sad. All of them hate school and they aren't even out of elementary yet!


I don't get to talk to a lot of actual grown-ups during the day, so your comments make me really happy! :)