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Dedicated reading class a good addition to summer school

March 21, 2012

Education is the key to getting ahead in life. And reading is the key to education.

That’s why we applaud the Washington County Schools initiative that will add a six-week session to traditional summer classes, designed for kids whose reading skills are in danger of becoming overwhelmed by advancing course work.

The program will target about 400 kids who have finished first grade, and are about to enter second.

The timing is important, because if children fall behind early in reading, it stands to reason that they will fall further behind in all subjects as the years go on, and exponentially so.

Yes, kids learn at different speeds, and studies suggest that it is possible (under ideal and perhaps unrealistic conditions) for a child to catch up. But in a crowded classroom, it’s asking a lot of a teacher to instruct the class as a whole, while simultaneously spurring on those students who are lagging behind and need special attention.

A child who cannot read properly will be at a loss to interpret textbooks and materials in all subjects, not just English. And a feeling of exclusion and inferiority is bound to negatively affect students both in academics and in life.

Fortunate children have parents who read to them and grow up in households where words and books are valued. But in far too many cases, the television set is left to do the parenting.

And if parents aren’t involved in their children’s education, it’s quite possible they will not be involved in other areas as well. A lot of kids are having to grow up early, doing their own cooking, housework and baby-sitting younger siblings and basically having to fend for themselves at the age of 6.

 A special summer-session program dedicated to reading will help to even the odds for these kids. It will give them something they might not receive otherwise: a chance. It also will add structure to summer days when too many other tempting (and negative) pursuits and influences are available.

As the school board recognizes, a lot of good can come from shoving words in front of young eyeballs. Reading is not only a basic life skill, it inspires curiosity, cultivates knowledge and expands vocabularies. A six-week investment of time between first and second grades can potentially make the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful lifetime.

It’s a commitment and an opportunity that every child deserves.

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