This is a call to arms. Our children are drowning and we are looking back towards the pier hoping the life guard gets off his break soon. Today in Georgia--heck, in Athens--there are third grade children that cannot read well enough to even take an achievement test, much less pass it.
What’s next year going to be like when they are held back, or worse, passed along to fourth and fall further behind?
What you see on the sidewalks and playgrounds today, the nine-and ten-year-old children with big grins and loud voices, are either the next policeman or the next policeman’s perpetrator. The absolutely critical time to make this child one or the other is now. Before Christmas. Before it’s too late.
Third grade is when students go from learning to read to reading to learn. Think about that. For the first time, they are asked to read a few pages of American history, understand it and then read, understand and respond to a question about what they just read. This is a leap similar to a bullfighter moving from battlin’ a wheelbarrow to facing ole Ferdinand….after he had been stung by the bee. It’s sink or swim.
Too many of us are satisfied with doing the best we can for our own family. And honestly, the readers of Patch appear to be well-educated and likely deliver high achievers out into our only-the-strong-survive world. I feel that today, this is not the end of our responsibility! It is so tempting to fall back on the throw-away excuses of single family homes and lack of parental involvement, etc., to explain why the less fortunate in our society are suffering so. Believe me, I’d like to jerk a knot into most of the parents I see in Walmart, too. But feelin’ smug and self-righteous does not a good human make. I expect that many of us, myself for sure, feel guilty that we turn our heads at this painful reality. Let’s try to help these strangers if they do not have the tools to help themselves.
Want to blame the teachers, principals or the Superintendent? Please don’t. A few may be worthy of our scorn, but most are truly dedicated to their profession. My dear friend Jane is exhausted. She teaches third grade in another district. Her students are identified as slow learners and the effort she puts in is above the call. Can’t someone help her by at least making sure her young pupils can read?
Today, right now, there are well over 1,100 third grade students in public school in
Athens. Many of them… ten percent, twenty percent, pick a number. Many of them will this month put their heads on their desk and say quietly to themselves that they ‘don’t get it’ and feel a sense of hopelessness. We can stop that.
I truly feels that the best way to improve the quality of all our lives is to improve the life of the least amongst us. We, the middle class, the folks who know how to read, can make a better world for our children and grandchildren by reducing the chances their world will be filled with uneducated, underemployed wards of the state.
I encourage you to volunteer; it’ll make you feel ten feet tall. Call your child’s school and ask if there are ways you can help other kids learn to read better. Become a CASA Volunteer and take a huge leap towards getting a child the help they need. When you do it, be prepared to feel like a slug when you let your obligations slip and to feel like an eagle when you stay an hour longer than you promised. How did something that helps others become so enjoyable in itself?
Earlier this fall I was gratified to receive comments about our ‘best things.' Today, take a minute and share on this space where you and your neighbors might give time and effort to bring the next kid along. A quick Internet search shows a recent book drive by a local church and don’t be afraid to check out the Athens-Clarke County Guide, where numerous reading assistance programs are listed.
Don’t just watch for the life guard…. Throw out the line yourself.