Vintage Eve of Destruction: Learning to Read the Big Words
First grader Jessica moved her right index finger, the one that showed the least amount of blue glitter nail polish remaining, determinedly under each word in her book as she read out loud to me. Jessica was the last child, and unbeknownst to her the most advanced, that I was able to “help” with reading during my ninety minutes in my daughter’s classroom. She read so easily I couldn’t help but interrupt her, querying her age and what books she was reading at home. She would be seven in October (A full eight months before my own child who was reading at a lesser level.) and had read Dr. Seuss’s The Foot Book the evening before. I was astounded at her maturity and progress. So was Samantha in her jealousy, so jealous in fact that she has newfound interest in the Dr. Seuss books that we have at home.
If you’ve read me before you know what an avid reader I am. I fought it as a child, surrounded by my father’s personalized “bookmobile” that he had converted from an old yellow Helm’s bakery truck. He had spent countless weekend hours painting psychedelic colored waves on the outside and building bookshelves and benches in the interior. I thought he was a weirdo.
My mother spent her leisurely evening hours stretched out on the one living room couch with uneven stacks of books by American and English authors. From the narrow coffee table, she could pick up one after another, completing or just reviewing the texts, as if they were an open box of See’s chocolates half emptied of their mouth-watering nuts and chews.
We kids all rebelled. Mike to watch Spiderman, while I voted for Love American Style and Charlotte pleaded for The Brady Bunch. We shared spots on the worn rag rug on the floor in front of my mother, ignoring the hammering outside, greedily sucking down as much TV as we could in the eight hours allotted per week in the old Hammond Household. Read? No way! That would make us way too much like our parents.
But it sunk in. Probably because there was no way to avoid it. Our parents were thong wearing, tie-dyed, middle-aged hippies but they still were graduates of Columbia and Barnard. We had no choice, when the eight hours of TV were up there was nothing else to do but read.
At a recent Site Council Meeting I had the opportunity to learn, once again, how important parent, teacher and administrator involvement is. Especially for reading skills. Our council chairperson, Sue Cahill, had recently attended the first district wide meeting. Here are some of the highlights we would like to share with Signal readers:
A writing assessment of 4th graders revealed that 75% didn’t meet the state standard—nebulous as the state was by not providing any guidance—may have just proved that the kids weren’t used to the test. Another state-decreed writing assessment test will not happen again until the 7th grade.
On the district wide results for the SAT9 16 out of 20 areas went up. A new math textbook will be in use as of January 2002. We have two elementary schools approved for building: Pico Canyon and McGrath are planned to open July of 2003. For Peachland, Wiley Canyon and Old Orchard students it may mean approximately 100 to 300 less students attending and some adjustments made to existing boundaries.
We then reviewed the First Draft of our School-Based Coordinated Program, reviewing much of the information I covered in a previous column. There seemed to be quite a bit of number crunching to decipher statistics in SAT9 and S.T.A.R.: disaggregated data, cohort data, comparison to national and district averages and school-wide summaries. I found myself looking forward to the upcoming half-day training session for incoming Site Council Members. Maybe a little remedial education would help me decipher the language skills I seemed to have lost somewhere between “cohort” and “disaggregate”.
I know this much is true: I’m involved and loving it. Whether it’s learning from the gifted Jessica what we should try to read at home, taking Samantha off her own eight hours of TV this week for getting too many warnings in school or pushing my own limits in where I had previously felt confident. We’re all reaching our own index fingers toward a goal. And so far, with the help of some very fine and caring teachers, administrators and parents, are all on the same page.