Literacy is not a spectator sport(Send this to someone you think might care to know it.)

What does that mean? In a country where the majority of our free time gets spent watching somebody do something, whether on TV, at the movies, or on a computer screen, we seem to have developed an aversion to doing things ourselves. Whatever is easiest and takes the least amount of effort. Could that be why reading seems to be so unpopular?  Why read the book when I can watch the movie in two hours? Why read to my children when I can put them in from of the TV to hear a story? Why spend time helping my child learn to read, when I can send him to school so the teacher can do it?

Why? Because what we are doing isn’t working. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. If you have read earlier PTR posts, then you know that reading test scores haven’t improved in forty years, and that our kids are giving up on reading and school as early as first and second grade. Many studies point to the importance of parents reading with their children. And yet we continue inventing computer programs or classroom methods which suggest that the parents aren’t needed for a child to become a great reader. Besides the fact that two out of three of our students above fourth grade are unable to read proficiently, those same NAEP reading tests tell us that only 6% of our children are considered excellent readers. Only 6%.

Over the past fifteen years I’ve done a very unscientific survey. I ask people if they like to read. Of the people who say they love to read, I ask one question. “When did you learn to read?”The answer was almost always something like this: “I don’t remember.” “When I was four or five.” “At home before I started school.” “My mom/my dad read to me all the time.”  I bring this to your attention, not to suggest that our schools are the problem, as so many want you to believe. Yes, our schools have problems, but they are not the cause of our reading problems. The problem is that we are missing out on the window of opportunity to turn our kids into excellent readers during the time when they can learn the fastest, and while they still want to do it. But, most importantly, I believe the message of my unscientific survey and all the studies which point to the value of parents tell us the necessity of relationship. Relationship is what makes marriages work and businesses prosper. Relationship is why people do much of what they do. Most people prefer going to movies and restaurants with others. This relationship thing is so much a part of us that we worry about people who want to be alone all the time.

The principles of Point to Reading and the reason some kids become great readers all depend on relationship. If you want to buy your child one of those computer reading books, do it with him instead of telling him to do it alone. Invest the time with them while they are around, and especially while they still want to have a relationship with you. Otherwise, don’t be surprised when your fifteen year old doesn’t want to talk to you…about anything. We earn the right to talk to our children by spending time with them when they are young. Add some great stories from excellent books and you will end up with a teen who likes to talk to you, and also happens to be an excellent reader and student. If you instead make literacy a spectator sport by expecting somebody else to do it with your child, don’t be surprised if your child becomes one of nearly 50% of Americans who never pick up a book after they graduate from high school or college.

PTR cover - for website

Henry Skinner-Larsen is the author of Point to Reading 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.  http://www.pointtoreading.com

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”?

[i] http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/subject/publications/stt2013/pdf/2014464NP4.pdf

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.  http://www.pointtoreading.com

The Truth is Out: Early Reading Proficiency Matters

A study just out by the Annie E. Casey Foundation www.aecf.org states: “Children who read proficiently by the end of third grade are more likely to graduate from high school and to be economically successful in adulthood.”[i]

So, how are we doing in getting our kids proficient by 3rd grade?  “According to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data, 80 percent of low-income fourth graders and 66 percent of all fourth graders are not proficient in reading.”[ii]

The article also tells us that in the past ten years, NAEP scores show an improvement from 70% to now 66% of 4th graders not proficient. If you consider that reason for celebration, then we can hope to reach 50% proficiency in FORTY YEARS. As it is right now, every year more than two million children are giving up on reading and therefore are struggling the rest of their time in school.

If you are already familiar with the message of Point to Reading, then you will not be surprised by my comment that what we have been doing in reading for the past forty years has not been working, and will never work. If you will take the time to study the principles upon which Point to Reading is based, you will agree with this conclusion.

I spoke with a university professor yesterday about a topic related to my work with PTR, and asked him if he likes to read. To which he replied, “Very much so.” “When did you learn to read?” I asked. With a confused look, he responded that he didn’t remember, but that it must have been before he went to school. This is the overwhelmingly common response I get to my question. The majority of avid readers learn to read at home…before they go to school. Read the book, Point to Reading, and you will discover the reason this is happening and why 66% of the nation’s fourth graders can’t read well. It is because the natural love of books that they had as young children is lost in the first couple years of school. In most cases, it is lost for the rest of their lives.

This educational report is one more alarm being sounded that there are holes in the ship and it is sinking. When will we, as a nation, stop standing by idly, watching the ship sink and instead pick up a bucket and start bailing? Do you want to know the answer? Are you willing to do what it takes to save reading, education, and the future of this country? Then pick up Point to Reading and go find a child and mentor him beyond proficiency to becoming an excellent student. Go NOW. The ship is sinking, but it is not too late.

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. http://www.pointtoreading.com

 

 


[i]  The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2013). Early Warning Confirmed: A Research Update on Third-Grade Reading. Baltimore, MD: Author. Retrieved from http://www.aecf.org; The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2010). Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters. Baltimore, MD: Author. Retrieved from http://www.aecf.org

 

[ii] National Center for Education Statistics, National Assess-ment of Educational Progress. http://nationsreportcard.gov

 

Do you know people who download Facebook more than they read the Bible? (share if you agree)

You might have missed the news that, according to Associated Press, more American adults download Facebook daily than read the Bible. The article also quotes a 2006 CBS News poll which found “15 percent of U.S. adults read the Bible or other religious texts daily”. Should we be surprised that fewer than one out of six adults read the Bible? I’m not, because that lines up with what I discovered in my research for Point to Reading about how few people like to read, in general. As discussed in the PTR book, people don’t read for these two main reasons:

  1. Two out of three Americans never become proficient at reading;
  2. The way we teach reading is so unpleasant that people give up on it while very young.

In regards to the state of reading in America, many people suggest the problem is video games and smart phones. There is a problem with that belief because this country had a reading problem long before video gaming and smart phones existed. A couple decades back, it was TV that was the culprit. Before TV existed, what caused our literacy problem? Radio? This news bite was announced on Facebook’s tenth birthday, as if to suggest that it means something. Instead this story reminds me of John Lennon’s comment in the 1960’s that the Beatles had become more popular than Jesus. Seems to me that little has truly changed in fifty years.

Do you want to do something about it?

If you happen to be in the minority group, the one out of six, that reads the Bible and believes it has value for our society and for the future of this country, what are you going to do about it? Do we stand by, shaking our heads at the foolishness of our culture? A quick read of Matthew 28, especially the last part that talks about “making disciples” and “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you”, and you might consider you have already been called to do something about it. “Point to Reading the Bible” comes out next week. It’s a short read–only 30 pages. Pick up a copy and find someone to disciple in Bible-reading.

Front Cover - PTR the Bible (Copy)

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. http://www.pointtoreading.com

Many people think Point to Reading is not for them. (Share the message, if you agree.)

Some don’t have children, or their kids have already grown up. Therefore they think the book is for somebody else. But, people who think poor reading skills in other people’s children is not their problem are fooling themselves.

  • When you can’t find good employees,
  • When you realize that your children (who have done well) will someday be supporting the rest who don’t read and got a poor education,
  • When you recognize that the overwhelming majority of prison inmates can’t read above a basic level—that they will commit crimes to live because their poor education does not afford them better opportunities,

this becomes your problem.

Instead of doing something, we complain.

I read blogs and news stories whose idea for solving the tragedy of education in America is to blame Congress, the courts, the School Boards, and the teachers. We want somebody else to solve our reading problem. And when THEY (whoever they are) don’t do it, we complain. Some parents do what it takes for their own children to succeed, but OTHER PEOPLE’S CHILDREN are somebody else’s problem.

Who will solve the problem of reading and education?

If you are waiting for Congress, the courts or the schools to come up with the solution, you may have a long wait. The past forty years of flat test scores should be enough proof that answers will not come from there. Do you think the answer will come from the seven out of ten Americans who dislike reading? Does that mean we give up? That’s not my idea of a good plan.

One out of ten

There is one group that is the only hope for transforming reading and education in America. Those are the people who read and believe reading is the key to a bright future. No one else will do this. Imagine one in ten adults mentoring one child to become an excellent reader. That’s enough adults to reach and raise every child in every elementary school in the whole country. Once this message gets out, we will accomplish this in one year. If you are intrigued by the notion of this moon-shot, I encourage you to read this book and pass the word along to others. I hope you will help me find the one out of ten. Point to Reading is not for you. It’s for everyone else. Thanks for listening.

astronaut with PTR

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. http://www.pointtoreading.com

A New Year’s Resolution…for Somebody Else

One consistent theme to New Year’s resolutions is they are about us. Me. My weight, my money, my health. I wish to suggest a New Year’s resolution for somebody else. This is a resolution to give your time to somebody for no money and for no special recognition. This is a gift you can’t write off your taxes. But, it may pay the greatest dividends of any investment you will ever make.

You know from the title of the blog that this has something to do with reading. The vision of Point to Reading is about transforming education, families, and the nation in less than a year.

Here’s the Vision for 2014. If only one out of ten adults will mentor one child (30 minutes, 3-4 times a week), reading a great book the PTR way, we will raise up every child in every elementary school in this country to become the best reader he or she can be…in less than one year.

So, as you consider various resolutions for the coming year, will you make a resolution to change the future for one child? If enough people will step up to do this, we will change the future of this country. Will you be one out of the ten? In addition, will you be one who will forward this to others you believe will also care about the future of one child and this country?

Is 2014 the year we stop expecting somebody else to solve our family and educational problems and just do what one person can do? Be the one.

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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. That way, children can learn and teachers can teach. 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. http://www.pointtoreading.com

The Safest, High-Return Investment You Can Make This Year (Share the message if you agree)

The Stock Market is at an all-time high with a strong chance of a correction. The bond market is tanking, and who knows where gold is going, while the dollar plummets. Of places to invest, most are extremely high risk. One man made news by losing millions because he threw out the hard drive that held his bitcoins. Is it possible to make an investment that is safe, and yet will bring a high return? The answer may surprise you.

Before I give the answer, let’s consider some monumental problems this country is facing that right now impact your bottom line.

  • Taxes are skyrocketing to pay for people who don’t work.
  • You pay through the nose for education, but can’t find qualified people.
  • Theft and burglary increase as unemployment worsens.

In business, we know that corporations which don’t invest in research and development will soon go out of business. We must improve our services and products, or somebody else will take our customers. A corporation that invests its money in real estate, stocks, gold, or even bitcoins will show a profit when times are good and those investments are rising in value. But, it’s R&D which will keep that business alive through the downturns.

Unfortunately, we have stopped running this country like a smart business. We chase after the latest “hot commodity” while forgetting to invest in what will get us through the next crash. It’s those times when we can’t find the time to invest in R&D when we must do so. The investment we must be making right now is educating our children.

We can complain about not being able to find qualified employees, or people who are unwilling to work, or who break into our homes, steal our cars, and trash our cities. We can complain that our schools are failing. Or we can do something about it. If one adult were to mentor one child, and invest in his life, and someone stepped up for every child, we could transform this country almost overnight. You may think this a foolish dream. But if only one out of ten adults would do this with Point to Reading, we would reach every elementary age child in America.

If you think that a few hours a week is a poor investment of your time, realize that the children we have been neglecting will someday be your employees, who will someday take over running your business, and will someday be the ones taking care of you during your final years in a nursing home. Now, you tell me what could possibly be a better investment.

astronaut with PTR

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. That way, children can learn and teachers can teach. 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. http://www.pointtoreading.com