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(By Chris Sharp) To simplify the problems of California learning, all you need do is look at the Californian students who cannot – and will not -- read.

My own experience tells me that a major reason for all the malfunctioning in all of our schools is that so many children hate to read.  It is true that many of them “cannot read,” but I find even here that their problem is that they hate to learn to read.   People who “cannot read” literally means they can never read, but that is not the case.

Many so-called illiterate students are intelligent enough to learn to read, but they are not motivated to do so.  If I were able to give them a salary of two thousand dollars a month as an incentive for them to learn how to read, most of them would be doing hardly anything else but reading next month.

Other students can read, but they do not do so unless under some kind of pressure.  They may even render a decent English score on a STAR test, but they perceive any kind of reading as so unpleasant they will use any ruse to escape from the terrible “punishing” exercise of reading.      

So the biggest surprise to me is to find how many students on a range of literary ability can find no pleasure in reading.  For them becoming introduced to even great literature can be as painful as getting into something that is very poorly written, like the notes they will pass to each other in class or in perennial texting.      

Since reading is the bridge to all knowledge – even math requires literacy – I can see how this unhappy relationship with words can lead to a collapse of general learning and why people in the federal government have said a third of California’s school districts may be failing minimum national standards.

Who are all these students who just don’t like to read?  Generally, they have been raised as visual learners whose reading experience is increasingly accompanying the picture messages of screens.  These include watching game screens, computer screens, telephone screens and TV screens. But a show of hands in my most difficult classes give evidence that book learning and community newspapers are rare in their homes.  The children resemble young fish that trust only their eyes on screens instead of that inner intuitive gift that traditionally has warned us of subtle baits and the nuances of natural and historical currents. 

 

Read more here: A Sharp View –  In general, Cal kids are reading less than they ever did