Opinion

If you want your kids to be fully literate, start reading to them when they're babies

To the editor: As professors of developmental and educational psychology, we found this editorial of intense interest, particularly because we have published on the topic of literacy. (“Are California's public schools failing their students on literacy?” editorial, Dec. 26)

We thoroughly support whatever schools can furnish in funds and instruction for students to become highly literate, as reading achievement is the currency of academic success, which enhances socioeconomic accomplishments. However, learning to read should not be left exclusively to the educational system.

Research from the Fullerton Longitudinal Study, contained in a paper we recently published in a peer-review journal, showed that the amount of time parents read to their infants and preschoolers correlated with their children’s reading achievement and motivation across the school years, which in turn correlated with higher post-secondary educational attainment.

Greater reading competence involves a partnership of parents and teachers, and success in reading begins when parents turn the first page of a book with their young children.

Allen and Adele Gottfried, Los Angeles

The writers are, respectively, professors at Cal State Fullerton and Cal State Northridge.

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To the editor: As a former teacher, current administrator and an instructor of pre-service teachers, I would argue that real change and improvement in the teaching of reading and in student success can only happen if the state reimagines its teacher training programs.

These changes should include, first, a yearlong course in reading instruction that includes developing a knowledge of and best instructional practices for the teaching of phonics, phonemic awareness and comprehension strategies; second, experiences with formative assessment to target reading deficiencies and an understanding of strategies to remediate them; and third, in addition to student teaching, a yearlong paid residency with a master teacher before allowing anyone to obtain a primary grade teaching placement where reading instruction is most important.

Until we make reading a priority in teacher training programs, our students will continue to suffer the consequences.

Shelley Lawrence, Los Angeles

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To the editor: The Times is on target in stating that “literacy is one of the most, if not the most important, skill” that schools teach. Indeed, it’s no mystery why reading instruction was prohibited by statute during the dreadful days of slavery in America.

Literacy is the starting line to freedom; it frees the mind, and it can lead to the freedom of humankind. Anything less than a full effort to eradicate illiteracy in America is tantamount to disempowering portions of our population, and that amounts to many of us being enslaved to ignorance.

In the 21st century, who benefits from such academic deprivation?

Ben Miles, Huntington Beach

The writer is chairman of the Huntington Beach Library Board of Trustees.

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