Public school watch: How do children learn to read?

FRIDAY, MAY 27, 2016

Nicholas Kristof schools Rich:
How do children learn to read? More broadly, how do kids become literate?

In yesterday morning's New York Times, Nicholas Kristof gave a good answer. Along the way, he explained a point we discussed not long ago. He explained how a child's "socioeconomic status" is about more than mere economics.

In a lovely and instructive column, Kristof described his relationship with his 18-year-old daughter. They do a lot of backpacking together. Literacy can start like this:
KRISTOF (5/26/16): My parents took me backpacking beginning when I was about 7, and my wife and I took our three children on overnight hikes as soon as they could toddle.

Don’t tell Child Protective Services, but when my daughter was 4, I took her on an overnight trip on Oregon’s Eagle Creek Trail,
carrying her most of the first day on my shoulders, on top of my backpack. The next morning, I bribed her: If she would walk by herself all 13 miles back to the car, I would buy her a spectacular ice cream in the nearest town.

So we set off for the car. At every rest stop, we conjured that ice cream and how cold it would be, and, fortified, we trundled on down the trail beside glorious waterfalls. When we reached the car, we were both proud of her heroism, and she beamed tiredly as I buckled her into her car seat.

When we arrived at an ice cream shop 20 minutes later, she was fast asleep. I couldn’t wake her.
What does that have to do with literacy? Kristof and his daughter were conjuring, talking! He was listening to the things she said. Such talking can lead on to this:
KRISTOF (continuing directly): Thus began our hiking partnership, sometimes undertaken with the whole family, sometimes just the two of us. At home we’re all busy, but on the trail we’re beyond cellphone coverage or email reach and we’re stuck with each other.

So we talk. Even as we’re disconnected, we reconnect. And on rest breaks and at night, camping under the stars, we read aloud to each other: On this trip, my daughter and I have been reading Adam Johnson’s brilliant Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Orphan Master’s Son,” and talking about what it means.

No self-respecting teenage girl would normally allow her dad to read to her, but out in the wilderness, it’s a bond we share.
Kristof and his daughter are reading a novel together this year. We'll guess there was reading on the trail when his daughter was younger.

This is one of the ways parents from higher-literacy backgrounds pass the culture of literacy along to their lucky-duck children. For many years, sensible people have been looking for ways to help parents from lower-literacy backgrounds understand how much help they can give their kids by engaging them in the ways described in Kristof's column.

Many parents may not know that they should talk to, listen to, and read with their kids. When William Raspberry retired from the Washington Post, he returned to his Mississippi home town to start a program called Baby Steps, a program designed to teach local parents how to convey the culture of literacy to their kids.

(For our first post about Baby Steps, click here.)

Many times, kids from lower-literacy families don't get the same advantages other children do. We aren't talking about material goods; we're talking about the advantages that are conveyed when children are listened, spoken and read to.

Raspberry was looking for ways to convey those advantages to lower-SES kids. When we read Motoko Rich's recent report in the New York Times, we were surprised by the tone she adopted, in which it almost seemed she was urging resentment against those kinds of advantages.

Without any question, higher-SES parents have always conveyed these advantages to their children. That said, consider the dark, crabbed way Rich described this ancient process:
RICH (5/3/16): Why racial achievement gaps were so pronounced in affluent school districts is a puzzling question raised by the data. Part of the answer might be that in such communities, students and parents from wealthier families are constantly competing for ever more academic success. As parents hire tutors, enroll their children in robotics classes and push them to solve obscure math problems, those children keep pulling away from those who can’t afford the enrichment.

“Our high-end students who are coming in are scoring off the charts,” said Jeff Nash, executive director of community relations for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

The school system is near the flagship campus of the University of North Carolina, and 30 percent of students in the schools qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, below the national average.

The wealthier students tend to come from families where, “let’s face it, both the parents are Ph.D.s, and that kid, no matter what happens in the school, is pressured from kindergarten to succeed,” Mr. Nash said. “So even though our minority students are outscoring minority students in other districts near us, there is still a bigger gap here because of that.”
That was a weirdly dark and resentful picture of the way the culture of literacy gets conveyed to kids.

In Rich's portrait, no one is walking and talking with their children, then reading novels with them. In Rich's portrait, students and parents from wealthier families are constantly competing for ever more academic success.

Kids are being pushed to solve obscure math problems. No matter what happens in the school, the kids are pressured from kindergarten to succeed!

Rich painted a very dark portrait of the way kids are helped to become more literate. Raspberry wanted to pull less advantaged kids up. Increasingly, the mindset found in that portrait by Rich suggests pulling everyone down. In the process, the New York Times suggests its street-fighting class solidarity, indeed its moral greatness!

At any rate, SES isn't all about economics. SES is also about the McGarrigles' "Walking Song."

One of the greatest lyrics ever: "I'll show you houses of architectural renown..."

18 comments:

  1. Rich isn't alone. There are teachers who feel this way. If you are the parent of a child with high scores, you are pressured to slow your child down. This is self-defeating for us as a society and cruel to kids, who often are pushing their parents, not vice versa.

    High SES families tend to be more child-centered. Low SES families tend to be more adult-centered. You can have adult-centered teachers too, who believe that classroom management and test scores are more important than the needs of individual children. Those high SES kids whose parents talked and listened are now the entitled millennials who don't understand why their candidate can't just be named the nominee even without enough delegates. It may be cruel to teach a low SES child that anyone beyond the family will listen to him or her when our society tends to stomp on precocious children, especially in those stressed classrooms without the resources to cope with them. Will a parent without literacy skills be prepared to run interference for a questioning (mouthy) child when those notes start coming home from the school?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I find those high ses, high scoring, high literacy kids tend to be on the lower side of the values and character scale, which I think is more significant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would be nice if the world worked that way, but it doesn't.

      Delete
    2. Some of the readers are old enough to remember when liberals were not quite as lazy and dumb as they seem to enjoy being after they awoke. Others are too young to know they are being underpaid but would blame it on their sex if they found out.

      Delete
  3. "In Rich's portrait, students and parents from wealthier families are constantly competing for ever more academic success."

    Bob Somerby has taken two half sentences and turned Motoko Rich into Cruella DeVille. Weirdly dark and resentful?

    What a joke this sad old man has become in pursuit of his own twisted meme.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Is someone losing his soul? We wouldn’t rush to deny it! But in our view, he’s been doing some very strange journalism, a point we’ll explore again tomorrow.

      Delete
  4. Life-forms like Kristof have spent many years running down American students and their public school teachers. Some journalists do this out of sheer ignorance. Others do it because they want to help their upper-class minders and masters privatize public schools.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No one does it quite as well as Our Own Dimmesdale—Our Own Upper-Class Moral Scold!

      Delete
  5. Today's NY Times has a picture of Hillary Clinton with the words "Shrewd, opportunistic, cold" underneath it. When you read further you find out that studies show that women in power are called those things, not that Hillary herself has been called them in comments.

    The other headline about Clinton says winning California is less of a sure thing. That is technically true only because of a slight decline in her poll numbers, not because she is in any danger of losing in the state. Again, a negative, misleading headline meant to portray Clinton badly.

    This is what bias looks like. It doesn't have to be blatant. As someone else noted, drip drip drip, every day in small and large ways.

    I am sick of it. Why can't they let her run her campaign and let the voters decide for themselves? 60% of Californians vote by mail. Like many others, our household has already voted for Clinton. Like many others, we find Sanders claims that things are rigged against him implausible, but these daily NY Times efforts to sabotage Clinton suggest they are trying to rig the election against her.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spoken like a Trump supporter. Or Somerby.

      Delete
  6. Huffington Post today says that Bernie is tying Clinton in the polls. Maybe in one but not others:

    http://www.mercurynews.com/politics-government/ci_29932524/poll-hillary-clinton-leading-bernie-sanders-by-18

    Nate Silver at 538 has the probability of Clinton winning California at 95-97%.

    So why is Huffington Post pretending that Sanders has a chance? This is just wrong!

    ReplyDelete
  7. My life became devastated when my husband sent me packing, after 8 years that we have been together. I was lost and helpless after trying so many ways to make my husband take me back. One day at work, i was absent minded not knowing that my boss was calling me, so he sat and asked me what its was all about i told him and he smiled and said that it was not a problem. I never understand what he meant by it wasn't a problem getting my husband back, he said he used a spell to get his wife back when she left him for another man and now they are together till date and at first i was shocked hearing such thing from my boss. He gave me an email address of the great spell caster who helped him get his wife back, i never believed this would work but i had no choice that to get in contact with the spell caster which i did, and he requested for my information and that of my husband to enable him cast the spell and i sent him the details, but after two days, my mom called me that my husband came pleading that he wants me back, i never believed it because it was just like a dream and i had to rush down to my mothers place and to my greatest surprise, my husband was kneeling before me pleading for forgiveness that he wants me and the kid back home, then i gave Happy a call regarding sudden change of my husband and he made it clear to me that my husband will love me till the end of the world, that he will never leave my sight. Now me and my husband is back together again and has started doing pleasant things he hasn't done before, he makes me happy and do what he is suppose to do as a man without nagging. Please if you need help of any kind, kindly contact Happy for help and you can reach him via email: happylovespell2@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hi everyone,so excited Dr.Unity helped me to stop Divorce and he can also help you to fix your Broken Relationships, Separations, Divorce & Get your ex Back. I am Natasha Hayes by name and i reside here in London, United Kingdom. I'm happily married to a lovely and caring husband ,with two kids.A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my husband .so terrible that he took the case to court for a divorce.he said that he never wanted to stay with me again,and that he didn't love me anymore.So he packed out of the house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get him back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and he confirmed it that he has made his decision,and he never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my husband .So i explained every thing to him,so he told me that the only way i can get my husband back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for him too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow his advice. Then he gave me the email address of the spell caster whom he visited.{Unityspelltemple@gmail.com}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address he gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my husband back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my husband who didn't call me for the past{7}months,gave me a call to inform me that he was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how he came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and he apologized for his mistake,and for the pain he caused me and my children. Then from that day,our marriage was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster Dr Unity. So, i will advice you out there, if you have any problem contact Dr Unity,i give you 100% guarantee that he will help you and you will be the next to share your testimony to every one in the world.!!. Email him at: Unityspelltemple@gmail.com or call him on +2348072370762 and you can also visit his website for more details: http://unityspelltemple.yolasite.com. thanks to Dr Unity for the love he show to me and family.

    ReplyDelete
  9. An amazing testimony on a spell caster who brought my wife back to me..i live in canada,and I'm happily married to a lovely and caring wife,with three kids.A very big problem occurred in my family seven months ago,between me and my wife.so terrible that she took the case to court for a divorce.she said that she never wanted to stay with me again,and that she didn't love me anymore.So she packed out of my house and made me and my children passed through severe pain. I tried all my possible means to get her back,after much begging,but all to no avail.and she confirmed it that she has made her decision,and she never wanted to see me again. So on one evening,as i was coming back from work,i met an old friend of mine who asked of my wife.So i explained every thing to her,so she told me that the only way i can get my wife back,is to visit a spell caster,because it has really worked for her too.So i never believed in spell,but i had no other choice,than to follow her advice. Then she gave me the email address of the spell caster whom she visited.{goodluck05spellcaster@gmail.com}. So the next morning,i sent a mail to the address she gave to me,and the spell caster assured me that i will get my wife back the next day.What an amazing statement!! I never believed,so he spoke with me,and told me everything that i need to do. Then the next morning, So surprisingly, my wife who didn't call me for the past seven {7}months,gave me a call to inform me that she was coming back.So Amazing!! So that was how she came back that same day,with lots of love and joy,and she apologized for her mistake,and for the pain she caused me and my children. Then from that day,our relationship was now stronger than how it were before,by the help of a spell caster. So, i will advice you out there to kindly visit the same website {goodluck05spellcaster@gmail.com},if you are in any condition like this,or you have any problem related to "bringing your ex back. So thanks to the goodluckspellcaster for bringing back my wife,and brought great joy to my family once again.goodluck05spellcaster@gmail.com

    http://goodluck05spellcaster.yolasite.com

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi every one i am LIZZY JAMES and i am from USA had i fight with my husband about three years ago and since then he has refuse to talk to me or even care about our family affair he abandoned us and went after another woman leaving me with three kids two girls and a boy,so last weeks a friend of my introduced me to a spell caster called LORD DESTINY really he destine my life, who helped me brought my husband back many think he is a scam but i promise you that he is nothing compare to that not even close so if you have some problems in having or getting your ex back you can contact the great and wonderful spell caster LORD DESTINY in this address and he be willing to help you via; lorddestiny@outlook.com

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi every one i am LIZZY JAMES and i am from USA had i fight with my husband about three years ago and since then he has refuse to talk to me or even care about our family affair he abandoned us and went after another woman leaving me with three kids two girls and a boy,so last weeks a friend of my introduced me to a spell caster called LORD DESTINY really he destine my life, who helped me brought my husband back many think he is a scam but i promise you that he is nothing compare to that not even close so if you have some problems in having or getting your ex back you can contact the great and wonderful spell caster LORD DESTINY in this address and he be willing to help you via; lorddestiny@outlook.com

    ReplyDelete
  12. The information is very nice, thank you very much for sharing this useful information.
    Many important thing I got from this article that you write.
    Obat Penyakit Jantung Lemah Herbal Penyebab Kanker Darah Pengobatan Angina Pektoris
    Still share things more interesting, ok !!!

    ReplyDelete
  13. was searching for help on the internet to get my ex lover whom will got divorced back, i came across this wonderful man called DR.AGBAZARA of AGBAZARA TEMPLE who did a nice job by helping me to get my divorced husband back within 48hours.. I never believe that such things like this can be possible but now i am a living testimony to it because AGBAZARA TEMPLE actually brought my lover back, If you are having any relationship problems why not contact DR.AGBAZARA TEMPLE via email on: ( agbazara@gmail.com ) OR on ( agbazaratemple@yahoo.com ), Then i promise you that after 48hours you will have reasons to celebrate like me.

    ReplyDelete