Reading–does anyone like it?

This weekend we went to the kindergarten registration kickoff event for our school district, a two-hour affair where they plied us with free coffee, pencils, magnets, and books, while trying to set the tone for kids they referred to as the high school class of 2021, and the college class of 2025. (It’s getting a little dusty . . . )

Parts of the morning verged on high comedy. The assistant superintendent gave a presentation on busing which explained, in part, that now that our district offers full-day kindergarten, the kindergarteners will ride on the same bus as the other elementary kids (except at this one school which is also a middle school, so they’ll ride with 8th-graders there, too). He said, “your kids might hear some inappropriate words, but that’s life.” During his presentation, he also said:

  • “We’ve only lost a kid once in my memory — a couple of weeks ago, this one boy got off the bus and his teenaged sister forgot to pick him up “
  • “We try to keep kids from having to cross busy streets, but that’s not always possible. In fact, this one kid got hit a couple of months ago, and hurt his arm a little.”
  • “We have cameras on all the buses, but not all of them work. They all have blinking lights *as if* they work, and we periodically change around the functional ones.”
  • “Oh by the way, your kids are on the bus right now.” (They took kids for a trip around the parking lot in a bus.)

A. started making this high-pitched, panicked noise until I reminded her that the boy won’t be riding the bus in the fall. We’re too close to his school (click the link for a retro use of the marquee tag!).

But the real highlight of the event was the superintendent’s opening remarks, which she chose to use as an exhortation to get involved in your child’s education. At first, I thought she was just preaching to the choir–after all, these were parents who’d already given up a Saturday morning to get orientated to kindergarten, which, after all, most of us successfully passed.

But then she started to go on and on about reading to your kid. Children who are read to regularly arrive at kindergarten tens of thousands of words ahead of other children. You can predict, she said, success on standardized tests and college admissions by the number of books in a home and how often they’re read. But then she said, “Look–you may not like to read. But read a paper. Or a magazine. Make time to read to your child–tell them, ‘I don’t want to do this, but it’s important.'”

Because that’s the message to send to kids: This reading stuff is stupid, but you’ve got to do it for school. That’ll make ’em into lifelong readers! Bonus message: I resent–and will tally up against you–making time for your education.

A few minutes later, one of the Parent-School liaisons said, “Do what I do–read your child’s books! They’re quite clever and enjoyable.” I guess that’s true: I enjoyed Sir Gawain and the Green Knight a great deal.

Some more practical advice might be: Try audiobooks, from the internet if that’s possible and the library if it’s not. If you *hate* reading, are you really going to communicate anything else to your child when you read?

A little alarming.

(Not the best education-related weekend, as we also had to sort out whether to sign the permission slips for the preschool’s safety sessions, including the “don’t let anyone touch your privates!” lessons. We range from skeptical to dubious about this, but also can’t quite figure out what will happen if we don’t sign–will they lock him in the bathroom for the duration of the lesson? And doesn’t refusing to sign the permission slip equal a “hey, prey on me” sign? On the plus side, we’re successfully signed up for t-ball!)

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