Dec. 2011 Column

    Christmas holidays bring special memories for me. Although my family was not affluent, it was a special time to get together and enjoy the fellowship of family near and far. I rarely received the gifts I asked  Santa for, because my dreams were much larger than my parents’ purchasing power. It never detracted me from hoping, however.
    For this year’s holiday season, I have one hope for the students of Hobbs Municipal Schools. I wish every student would receive the gift of loving to read.  Reading by itself does not ensure success, but the inability to read almost assuredly makes life’s challenges much more difficult. This comes from a person who disliked reading until I reached adulthood.  I did not have difficulty reading as a youngster, but I was an “every word” reader, which meant I read very slowly. While my peers finished their assignments, I constantly lagged behind and they had to wait on me to move forward.  
    Once I reached adulthood and realized I would not live forever, it became apparent to me that I had not retained a lot about the historical facts of this great nation. I have always been intrigued about what makes a great leader great. John Wooden was my first biography. In recent years I read about John Adams, Abraham Lincoln and George Washington to name a few. These gentlemen lead with a passion, knowing that if defeated, they would surely be killed. Each person had a vision where they thought the nation should be headed.
Reading is not only essential, it can be fun. Every discipline in education relies on reading for comprehension. Reading is also pertinent in every job or occupation. In some instances, reading becomes essential for safety reasons. Our lawmakers are likewise aware of the importance of reading. The 2012 Legislature will likely hear a bill next month referencing the reading skills of third graders. The bill will probably be referred to as an “early intervention” bill.  Research shows that children who cannot read at grade level by the third grade have a much higher risk of dropping out of school than other students.  The goal of the bill is for educators to pinpoint those students experiencing difficulty and take pointed measures – holding them back in the most severe cases – until they can read on grade level. The bill  will do little to alter practices already occurring in our elementary schools. But the thing we as educators have little control over is factors outside of the classroom.
    Family is the most important role model in every child’s life.  Parents can have a tremendous impact on their children’s reading levels.  Parents can help by having reading materials accessible at the home.  Newspapers, magazines, books, and comics demonstrate the importance of reading to the children.  As I reflect on the Christmas holiday, I consider this a belated letter to Santa and ask that each student at Hobbs Municipal Schools receive the gift of a love for reading this Christmas 2011.
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