Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Open Letter To Parents

Dear Parents,

The English Department teachers have come to the following conclusion: our students are not reading enough.

These days, it is not uncommon for students to spend hours in front of a computer. Yes, they might be reading online, but it is not the same as reading books. Numerous studies have demonstrated that students who read voraciously have higher test scores in vocabulary and reading comprehension. They also tend to be better writers. There is a direct correlation between student success on future-determining tests like the SAT and the ACT and how much a student reads, both in school and for fun.

In class, every day, teachers are assigning reading, allowing periods of class reading called SSR, or sustained, silent reading, and encouraging a culture of reading by modeling the behavior for students. We read a variety of texts, look up unfamiliar words, and practice critical and analytical thinking skills in writing and discussion of the books read for class. But we need to do more, and to do that, we need your help.

I need you to create a culture of reading in your homes. Some of you do this already, but we need to increase the effort. We need each household to shut down, for thirty to sixty minutes every evening, and have every family member read. If fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters—or even grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins—could devote one hour each night to reading, an entire culture of reading will spring up. Turn off the television, the computers, the cell phones, and just read. Possibly, every one could read the same book and discuss it at the dinner table. Newspapers, magazines, and books are all possible reading selections for this family reading time. This is reading for enjoyment, so allow each family member to read what he or she likes.

Take your son or daughter to the bookstore and let them browse. Let them make their own selections, and do not worry if they are not selecting classic literature. Any reading will help. The library might also be a regular stop for the family to select books. Again, I know that many families support their children’s reading already, but we are looking to increase our commitment.

If you need suggestions for reading material, let me direct you to a few websites for booklists:

http://www.lapl.org/kidspath/books/index.html (LA Public Library booklists for kids)
http://www.lapl.org/ya/books/index.html (LA Public Library booklists for young adults)
http://www.booklistonline.com/ (Amer. Library Association booklists for all ages)

We believe that this enhanced reading, in the classroom and at home, will also affect other subject areas such as history, science, problem solving in mathematics, and ultimately, lead to higher test scores on the SAT in multiple areas and disciplines.

Any effort you can give to this endeavor will be greatly appreciated. I know in this fast-paced society, our time is a precious commodity. We are committed to giving our students the best possible opportunities to excel in the classroom now and in the future in college. Working together, we can introduce an enhanced culture of reading and encourage the life of the mind in our children.

Thank you so much for the time and effort you put into your child’s education.

Paul L. Martin

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