Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Reading Is the Key Skill of the Future

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Reading Is the Key Skill of the Future

Article excerpt

Byline: tonyaa weathersbee

Not long ago Chelsea Matthews, who teaches reading at Northwestern Middle School, told me that she tells her students to read as if their lives depended on it.

Maybe that ought to be the theme of the Duval County school district's $5.5 million reading initiative.

A recent white paper released by the Jacksonville Public Education Fund found that third-graders who read at a third-grade level on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test aren't growing into 10th-graders who read at a 10th-grade level.

In fact, according to the report, of the 61 percent of third-graders who were reading at or above grade level in 2001, only 33 percent were reading at or above grade level once they became high school sophomores.

School district officials hope a reading initiative, titled "Read It Forward Jax," will reach children in kindergarten through third grades, so that they're reading far enough above grade level so that there's no drop off by the time they reach high school.

It can only help. Most research shows that the earlier children begin to read, the less likely they will fall behind.

Still, I say those officials ought to borrow a page from Matthews.

Society that is running low on money to support people who read so poorly that they won't be able to adapt to the demands of new jobs,and new opportunities.

It's not enough, for example, to be able to read names from a directory as a phone operator if phone companies are replacing operators with voice-recognition technology. Even service jobs are being affected; some stores now have electronic checkout lines that don't require a human cashier.

If jobs like those are disappearing for the literate, chances are fewer jobs will exist for youths who can't even keep their reading skills up by the time they get to high school.

Reversing that trend, however, will be a challenge for the school district because many, if not most, of the students who wind up reading below grade level by the time they hit high school weren't read to as children. …

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