12/27/12 — Grim saga: Latest statistics offer not-so-good read on a basic skill

View Archive

Grim saga: Latest statistics offer not-so-good read on a basic skill

The numbers are in, and the discussion seems remarkably appropriate in light of the fact that so many youngsters likely unwrapped gadgets, games and other electronic devices this holiday season.

Once again, reading scores are going down -- and, sad to say, it is becoming a national phenomenon.

You don't have to tell teachers that this problem exists -- they see it daily. Curiosity for books has been replaced even more so today by fascination with games and electronics, and our children are paying the price.

Spell check is replacing the dictionary, the Internet is replacing research, and texting is the new talking, with a language all its own. And we have children whose test scores and communication ability reflect that shift.

Time marches forward -- and so, too, does technology. There is nothing wrong with the latest and greatest video game, cell phone and computer device.

But when we forget the basics, the building blocks of education, and allow our children to make that shift, too, that is when we enter a danger zone and we ill-prepare our children for the next step in their lives.

Employers need workers who can communicate, who can read and who can write -- even in the sciences, even in the technology fields. And they are worried that they will not be able to find them.

Being able to type on a keyboard and manipulate a joystick are not enough -- for anyone -- and our children our losing something because of it.

And it is not just understanding the placement of words or the composition of an English sentence that matters, either. The wonder of books -- and the imagination they foster -- is where many great ideas began and what inspired so many of our leaders of the past.

We need a balance -- a wonder at technology and a respect for the skills that will allow children to build their futures. And while the schools can introduce it, it is up to the rest of us to foster it.

So as we talk about bricks and mortar, so, too, should we be talking about support and standards for the students we are educating -- and supporting the teachers and administrators -- and librarians -- who are trying to get that work accomplished.

It might begin with a simple vow to turn off the games for an hour each day. It might require more story times and books under the Christmas tree next year. And it might also require a change in agenda for already busy families and creating a few more resources to support our schools.

But it will be a gift that will make a difference not just in test scores, but in our children's futures.

And that is an investment we cannot afford to miss.

Published in Editorials on December 27, 2012 10:25 AM