Help state’s kids to read now – or pay later

Monica Brilla – After reading that the state will spend the $22.7 million early learning challenge grant on “rating child care providers” and “building an early childhood data tracking system,” I wasn’t able to sleep that night (Dec. 7).

I realize that these funds cannot be reallocated toward anything else at this time but the answer to the low literacy levels in our state is at hand and all we need to do is reach out and embrace it. It’s like having the cure for the cancer that is ravaging our children and saying that we would rather focus on trying to find ways to prevent 10% of the cases instead of actually curing 90% of the children. The answer is to institute an evidenced-based reading program that is explicit, systematic, cumulative and multisensory in every school for every child.

Requiring parents to get involved as a primary solution to this issue is not the answer. I am that parent. We can only save one child at a time, and it requires more resources than most parents have in time, money and stamina. I have lived through this and speak to parents with children struggling to read every day and the story is the same one over and over again.

First, the parent has to learn more about their child’s reading difficulty than any of their teachers and then fight, almost on a daily basis for years, with educators who refuse to learn as much about it as you have and fall back to their position that it “doesn’t fit their curriculum” and if they ignore you long enough you will either quit bothering them or time will pass and the student will be out of their class or school.

The public school system is the only place where every child can receive the reading instruction they need whether there is parent involvement or not. Since the majority of learning disabilities are inheritable, many parents are simply not able to help their own children and unfortunately are usually themselves a casualty of the public school system that has failed them in the past.

We need to approach this by determining what the children need and instituting it, not by determining what we can institute and hope the children receive what they need.

This issue affects every person in the state, whether they have children in school or not, or whether their children are proficient readers or not. Children that read well are not challenged to reach their fullest potential because of the focus and resources placed on children who struggle.

Studies have shown conclusively that 75% of children that are poor readers in fourth grade have trouble holding down a job. Every taxpayer pays for the social services needed to assist them when we should have provided them with the essential reading skills they needed back in elementary school. Talk to any employer about finding qualified individuals to train. Talk to any college math or English teacher about the quality of our high school graduates and how many of them need remedial classes just to begin college or tech school. We all pay for this lack of education in the end.

The time to solve this problem is now. We have the solution within reach. You need to ask yourself: Why wouldn’t you make these changes? If the answer is anything other than it would benefit all the children in school, then you will know that all children learning to read is not your goal.

I implore you to visit the Wisconsin Reading Coalition website to see statistics about the illiteracy problem in our state and learn more about the solution.

Monica Brilla is chairwoman and co-founder of the Lake Superior Tutoring Center in Iron River.

Help state’s kids to read now – or pay later | Education News.

Jimmy Kilpatrick, a national recognized professional special education advocate since 1994.

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