Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

March 27, 2009

Reading issue needs both sides


Dear Editor,

To all concerned parents of children in the Pauls Valley Public School System: When I first learned of the “Too Much Reading” website and the “Parent Initiative for Change” I had a number of emotional responses, none of them positive.

Because I tend to be reactive in nature and speak without first thinking about the ramifications of my words, I often respond in such a way that will not lead to any meaningful dialogue, but rather, I lash out, which never seems to accomplish a lot.

This is exactly what I did on the discussion forum that was originally available on the “Too Much Reading” website.

The discussion forum was removed however, and what I wrote there is not available for public viewing. This is probably a good thing.

I believe that if we cannot engage in meaningful dialogue over an issue that it will not be resolved in any appropriate, lasting way, no matter how big or small the issue.

The particular issue at hand is very important to me because I have a daughter who is just beginning her experience in the Pauls Valley Public School System.

It is very important to me that she receives a quality education and that when she graduates she is prepared, whether she chooses to continue her education, start an entrepreneurial career, go to work for someone else or get married and be a stay-at-home mom.

I have my own ideas about what I would like to see. But in the end it will be her decision. No matter what she chooses, I believe it is important that she be able to think critically and make her own informed decisions.

I also believe that without those critical thinking skills she will be at a competitive disadvantage compared to her peer group.

This is what I do not want to see happen, and it is why I am against this “Parent Initiative for Change.”

I believe that critical thinking skills are best nurtured by developing, early on, a high level of reading comprehension, and the only way to do that is to spend time reading.

In a perfect world, children would take the initiative, early on, to do this without being told. But the truth is that many of them don’t.

And so in the interest of our community, it is the responsibility of us, as parents, to support our educators in seeing to it that our children don’t enter the post-high school world behind the curve.

As I understand it, the media attention that this issue has received has been somewhat one sided.

The removal of the discussion forum from “toomuchreading.com” has also prevented any meaningful dialogue from occurring, providing only the opportunity for those in support of the initiative to voice their opinions, leaving no room for any voice of dissent.

In my mind this is not a discussion about the stated objective of “reading for pleasure.”

It is about our children reading in order to develop the skills to eventually operate independently as citizens, voters, professionals, or in any area of their lives, even if it is just watching the news, and seeing past the media hype.

Being well rounded is important, but I don’t believe that athletics should hold magnitude over education. Very few people have any chance of professional success in athletics. In addition, many children lack the physical ability to compete in these areas. This was my own experience growing up.

Perhaps being well rounded is about more than going out for football, baseball, basketball, track or whatever. To be sure, theses activities teach teamwork, citizenship, leadership and so on, but other things can do the same.

Perhaps being well rounded is just as much about being involved with your community and reaching out of your own way of thinking long enough to see another point of view: to walk a mile in another person’s shoes, so to speak.

Being able to think critically provides so many opportunities, not the least of which is to be discerning when we see and hear things in the world: to see past someone’s agenda, and find the truth.

If this “Parent Initiative for Change” does somehow find a foothold and achieves success, I will see it as a failure on the part of our community to see to a bright and promising future for our children, and as a symptom of the underlying issues of apathy and shortsightedness.

For my own part, I will see to it that my daughter spends time reading each day, in addition to the homework that she is already assigned.

I will also instill in her the idea that community involvement is more important than getting a letter jacket, because people don’t really care about letter jackets in the real world, and that is where she is going to spend most of her life.

And more importantly, it is where she will spend all of her life after she is out from under my roof and dependent upon her ability to think for herself.

Greg Hendrix