An Open Letter to Leaders on Saving Our Children’s Future

Posted: February 14, 2014 in Reading Excellence
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Dear leader (entrepreneur, ceo, educator, artist),

I grateful for your efforts to improve our world. I appreciate how frustrated and exhausted you must be as you watch our nation head for the cliff. I bring something for your consideration. The solution.

To paraphrase a quote from Joel Rosenberg, the problem is not so much a failure of intelligence as it is a failure of imagination. A boss (whom many in the company disliked immensely) commanded that we not bring him a problem without at least one solution. The nature of all problems is that the wrong answer always gives the wrong solution. Said differently, we must go after the real problem to make the symptoms go away.

All the problems we are seeing, in a nation rushing headlong for the cliff, are the result of ignorance and self-centeredness. The answer to the problem of ignorance is education. The foundation of education is reading. Someone who is well-educated, whose children read well and have the foundation for a healthy future, may tell you that everything is fine, ignoring the fact that their children will financially support the uneducated for the rest of their lives, besides the reality that the uneducated will hit them on the head to steal their stuff. The self-centered belief that all is well if my children are fed ignores the fact that the starving will commit crimes to get what I have, and no police force will prevent it from happening. The answer to protecting my children is to educate the hungry in how to feed themselves.

The United States, though better off educationally than other third world nations, is not literate. Yes, there are some people in America who are literate, but the majority are not. When NAEP (Nation’s Report Card)[i] tells us that two out of three fourth graders can’t read proficiently; when scores tell us that reading has not improved in forty years; we must acknowledge we are not progressing in the area most fundamental to a free and prosperous people—the love of reading and the love of learning. Battles in Congress and in the courts have not resolved this tragedy and never will. And fighting the symptoms of the tragedy of illiteracy, in Congress and the courts, will never turn an illiterate people from their march to the cliff.

Before you assume I am in the camp that says we must legislate more money or laws to “improve education”, understand that my belief (which you most probably agree) is that neither the Congress, the courts, nor the boards of education have the ability to improve education. If they did they would have made a difference a long time ago. Remember, in past decades, some very smart and well-meaning people attempted to “improve education” through the aforementioned avenues, with no real improvement.

Leader, I come to you, not complaining about a problem or suggesting how to live with the symptoms of illiteracy, but with a solution. In fact, I believe I have identified the only solution to change the results we are seeing in our schools. The answer will be found in one adult committing to one child to bring that child to literacy. Not a program, nor a video; not a computer and certainly not the system of education we have expected to do what only one person can do—spend time with one child on a regular basis as a mentor, until that child achieves the love of reading and learning. The belief that it is “somebody else’s job” to raise our children to literacy has produced the results we see today.

September 1962 JFK announced we would send men to the moon. Many intelligent and responsible people thought he was nuts, that the space program would waste billions of dollars and do little more than kill people. Even if we did reach the moon, most believed little good would come of it. In retrospect, the space program may have been the greatest investment of the 20th century, since it’s the source of almost every piece of technology which runs our world today.

I am here to announce the moon-shot of the 21st century—true literacy defined not by the ability to read, but by the love of reading and learning. And I have a workable plan for achieving it. With just one adult out of ten stepping up to mentor just one child to reading excellence, that will be enough adults to reach and raise every child in every elementary school in the whole country. Once this message gets out, we will transform reading and education in this country, and we will do it in one year. The question is not “If this will work, but When.” The real question asks when we will find the one out of ten who will do this. I understand that nine out of ten may say “No, I am too busy.” I am searching for the ones who will say “Yes.” Will you be one out of ten, and will you help me find others who will say, “Yes”?


PTR cover - for website

Henry Skinner-Larsen is the author of Point to Reading , the PTR Jumpstart Manual, and Point to Reading the Bible. The principles of Point to Reading™ are  based on the belief that our children are smarter than we imagine and can learn way faster than we allow. We can best help our children by building a love of reading in them through a one-to-one relationship. The key is locking in the love of reading while they are still young, and before any number of challenges can steal it from them.

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