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Befriend a book

Tricia Padden

The women in Truckee are strong (in this climate we need to be), the men are handsome (for here the strong, athletic type thrive) and the children are all above average, or are they?

Last week’s front page story indicated that reading scores across California are falling and Truckee’s 12th grade teachers are making a last- ditch effort to prep their inadequately trained students for college. This is not accurate.

Last year’s juniors scored an average of 512 on the S.A.T. exam, a little above average, and an average of 24.5 over the typical 21 on the ACT college entrance exam, the one referred to in the article. At the 75th percentile, our students scored significantly above average. Of course this is not Lake Woebegone, and even though most of Truckee’s college-bound students are above average, not all are, and most can do even better.

California has adopted new standards now in effect in classrooms. But face it, no method, no new curriculum and no new 12th grade expository reading and writing class can take the place of 18 years of reading. And any reading program adopted by the schools is effective as any other.

It all depends on teacher-to-student ratio with (can you guess?) one-on-one being the best. By the way, no Truckee High teacher attended this conference as suggested in your headline due to lack of funds. We have to keep current through professional journals where occasionally we pick up something new, hopefully entertaining and sometimes even effective, and we pick up a lot of statistics.

The results of these statistical studies are as follows: The more you read in middle and high school, the better you think, write, understand human nature and the world, the more politically active you become, the more money you make in life and the more you donate to charitable causes.

Truckee teachers and students read many books in our whole-language curriculum. We practice decoding, encoding, reading the classics, the contemporaries, the culturally known, the culturally diverse and the test excerpts. We read on increasing levels of difficulty; we teach how to achieve meaning when the text is too hard.

What we can’t do is read for someone. No curriculum can do this. Some kids have more friends on My Space than they do in books.

Parents, limit TV time. Limit My Space time, video game time and phone time. Go to the library and to the book store with your children. Read the books they are reading in their English classes and those they read for fun. Offer those that have made a difference for you. Institute family reading time. I’m a reader because my mother was a reader. When her domineering “big” sister suggested she get rid of her books, my 90-year-old mother defended in a shaky but firm voice, “I will never get rid of my books; they are my friends.”

If all Truckee students were to adopt more books as friends, then all our children would be above average.


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