The nation’s educational assessment report card came out today. Once again California received an Unacceptable. Overall, the Golden State held up the rear – our future’s reading scores coming in above the intelligence found in our capital, Washington, D.C., and NO ONE ELSE. Mathematically, we beat out Mississippi and Alabama too. (Given our state’s current fiscal status, this does not surprise me.)
However. This year’s scores are higher than the last ones. That’s comforting? It’s worth noting that this data is based solely on standardized tests, and averaged across the entire state. But it’s still not a pretty picture.
Disclaimer: I am writing this post as a book nerd. And I embrace my nerd stripes.
I loved school. Every book on the Summer Reading List was completed by the second week of summer vacation. It was usually right as we hit July that my mom would storm into the living room and demand, “Put down the book and go outside for a bit.”
“Five more pages, mom. Just let me finish this chapter.”
Every year my nervous excitement would start to grow as August wound down and the new year began. My “candy shop” was the local Staples; the scent of office supplies and the possibilities held by fresh notebooks, paper and pens made me drunk with giddy anticipation.
One year I carried around a reporter’s pad to write down my stories as my imagination built upon life’s observations. I fancied myself Harriet the Spy. (Then I reread that book and figured it may be wise to lay off the investigative tabloid reporting for a few years.)
My elementary classes often participated in the tried and true torture method of Reading Out Loud. This was my kryptonite. I didn’t like paying attention to my classmates’ bland interpretation of a line. by. line. recitation. So I read ahead. By the time it was my turn to read a paragraph, I was usually at least four stories ahead in the Grade 4 Houghton Mifflin Literature Anthology. My imagination was not only more interesting than monotone stuttering and stumbling, but way faster.
At my fifth grade graduation, I was presented with the award, “The Great American Reader: Most Likely to Read Every Novel Ever Written.” I took this as a GREAT compliment. (I still have my certificate.) Mrs. Pope – I’m still working on that!
I believe that education begins at home. Teachers alone cannot force-feed students all the information they need. What they can do is provide the tools and instill a love of learning.
I read pictures books to my pregnant tummy. (I also read some “beach reads” – aka chick lit fluff – out loud while I was in the hospital.) During our NICU stint we read “Hungry Caterpillar” and “Good Night Moon” through the isolette portholes. We lived the tale of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.” Today, we repeatedly read “Where’s Spot,” among other counting and pop-up books. (The muppets used to be a fan of “Bugs in Boxes: A Pop-Up,” but we’re still more in the “tasting” phase, so there are no longer any bugs in boxes.)
As they grow up, the muppets will adventure down the Mississippi River with the “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” They’ll lead the Alaskan pack with Buck in “Call of the Wild,” rail against adult phonies with Holden Caulfield in “Catcher in the Rye,” win the love of Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby.” They’ll reminisce about roommates in “A Separate Peace,” seek revenge with “The Counte of Monte Cristo,” and battle bad dreams with the “BFG.” It will be a wild ride with Mr. Toad in “Wind in the Willows,” a dark journey to Mordor in “Lord of the Rings,” and ultimately a magical journey on a Nimbus 2000 as they navigate Hogwarts with “Harry Potter.”
Books are my happy place.
I love learning. I went to grad school simply because I missed it. And when it comes to cultivating the intelligence and drive to learn in my children – I do not expect to see any funny marks next to my A.