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It doesn’t take a miracle. It only takes a book

Submitted by on Wednesday, 5 January 2011 3 Comments

Mommy, am I Student A or Student B, Big Guy asked.


Am I Student A or Student B, out of the ones in my school folder.

I was stunned that he’d read his school folder, especially given how little interest he has at times in doing the homework within it, but at least I knew what he was talking about now.

The two children are examples on a paper titled “Why Can’t I Skip My 20 Minutes of Reading Tonight.” Student A meets the requirement and logs 3,600 minutes during the school year. Student B reads four minutes a night, for a total of 720 for the academic calendar. By sixth grade, Student A has read for 60 school days. Student B, 12.

“Which student would you expect to be more successful in school … and in life?” the paper asks.

“So which one am I?” he asked again.

“Most nights you’re Student A. Except for the nights when you try to tell me you read 176 pages of Harry Potter in 20 minutes. Then you’re definitely Student B.”

He was not happy with being Student B, and for the next few nights he attacked his nightly reading assignments with Student A-type zeal. He even started reading aloud to his brother and me.

That’s the thing about Big Guy. He’s been grounded in the basics since he was a baby – yes, I’m now saying “neener neener neener” to everyone who thought I was a freak for taking him to the library before he could even crawl – and he always comes back to his roots. Sometimes – OK, a lot of the time – he’ll kick and complain but when push comes to shove he’ll eventually get around to pushing himself.

That’s why I get so frustrated at movies such as “Waiting for Superman” or mantras that charter schools will solve all our problems. They won’t. For every study showing magnificent results at some charter program or another, there’s always an analysis that scratches deeply enough below the surface to see that it’s easier to succeed when you’re skimming talent off the top.

And there’s no need to wait for Superman or Superwoman either. There’s a superhero in every home – even those who sort of defend charters know that.

“Alarmingly, research suggests that, by the time they enter kindergarten, the average child of a middle class or affluent family has been exposed to approximately 1,700 hours of one-on-one reading,” Kathleen Porter-Magee told educationnews.org last spring. “By contrast, the average child of a low-income family has been exposed to 25 hours. What’s worse, without dramatic and early intervention, that exposure gap is only going to grow. Exponentially. So, schools need to be honest with disadvantaged parents and students about what will be required to prepare students to succeed.”

Bingo. The Student A-Student B scenario that’s been in Big Guy’s homework folder since the beginning of the year does exactly that. How well that message gets through I don’t know. But it’s a start.

The guys’ pediatrician when they were babies always tried to jump start it, too. “Are you reading to them?” she’d always ask. How well that message got through I don’t know either.

The whole thing frustrates me. It’s so simple to get kids off on the right foot academically. How to get that message out to those not in the know, though, is beyond me. Some are loathe to pay for in-home support programs that likes of which have shown success for decades. I suppose it’s preferable to spend money later, after we can declare a crisis and rally support for private-sector solutions to “fix” education.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Kristina said:

    When I was just a kid, I find books fascinating. Must be because my mom encourages me to do so. Nevertheless, I totally agree with u.

    Great post debra!

  • Debra said:

    My younger one is fascinated – when he was not more than a newborn, he’d kick and coo to the books I’d read to his brother while I was pregnant with him. For the older one, they’re more of a necessary evil unless he finds one on a topic that really fascinates him. We went to the library yesterday, and afterward he was so into a book about helicopters that he forgot to bicker with his brother while we were at Starbucks.

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