Parents know the best way to get a child to take medicine is to sweeten it up a little.
D.C. educational consultant Eugene Williams Sr. and his friend, college professor Arthur Whimbey, figured out that studying the lives of heroes like Michael Jordan, Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey and Maya Angelou is a good way to help students learn to read better and think clearly.
A new reading program that was introduced to Jefferson Junior High and the Ballou Match Science Technology Academy during Black History Month is bumping up the students' reading, writing and reasoning ability, Mr. Williams said.
The material focuses on problem-solving and reading. Students, for example are given a jumbled paragraph of sentences to sort out. The object is to reconstruct the sentences so they are in the proper order.
"Text reconstruction is three years old," said Mr. Williams, an administrator in the D.C. school system until last August. "Students are just enamored over it. They love it because it's different. Instead of getting topic sentences and developing paragraphs, they're organizing and coming up with solutions to problems."
The educators also have the students copy passages from authors they admire. This is not busy work, Mr. Williams said. It's a way to give them a feel for the way words go together.
"Once children [copy] a paragraph or composition, they feel it's theirs. Then they get to read it. Discussing the pros and cons of, say, a story about Michael Jordan improves reasoning and reading," he said.
Mr. Whimbey said the way children and college students are taught to read and write excites no one.
"When I was teaching psychology in college, I found a number of students having problems reading," said Mr. Whimbey 56, an Albuquerque, New Mexico, native. …