The Jan. 19 opinion page of the Daily Republic featured a cartoon that recalled memories and aroused my interest. It showed a little boy holding a newspaper. The headlines read: “Head start doesn’t work,” followed by, “$8 billion program fails kids,” and ends with “House OKs more funding.”
The little boy says, “Hey, could someone read this to me?”
A dozen or so years ago the local Head Start joined with Tools of Learning for Children to help teach their 400 kids (yearly) how to read. After two years, they stopped because Head Start does not teach kids to read. Their policy was to emphasize socializing.
I was very disappointed. That’s still their policy and I’m still disappointed that Head Start locally claims to be the most popular preschools in Solano County. They may be popular, but they are not preschools at all. They are day care centers that keep children while their parents do something else. Their academic objectives nationwide are to have children able to print their names and count by rote to 10, with no idea what quantities are.
The Kansas Head Start website proudly declares these objectives. It’s a national policy. What’s the negative effect of this policy? It denies the million kids in their program the opportunity to build foundations in literacy in real preschools. The preschools in our Tools of Learning for Children program consistently teach kids to read. Here’s an example: On the day this cartoon appeared, Tools of Learning for Children had its board meeting at
my home. One of the guests was the director of Children’s Garden Preschool of Vacaville. She presented me with a DVD of a 4-year-old boy reading from a Frontline Phonics second grade level textbook. Not only was he reading the text,, he was reading and answering the questions used to test for comprehension.
If teachers and directors of preschools have as their objective having a child learn to read, the child will learn to read.
In addition, Head Start (Child Start) is capturing other money from government programs that otherwise might be used to help kids learn to read.
Head Start is firmly entrenched with the political establishment. If it were up to me, and it is not, I would require
whoever gets that $8 billion in federal funds to teach their charges to read and figure or else we would find someone else who would.
Our whole public education system doesn’t work for many of our kids. Those million Head Start kids arrive at kindergarten unprepared, and the public schools don’t teach many of them the fundamentals needed to build the academic foundations necessary to succeed in school and in life. These children go from one failure to another.
Governments from our nation’s capital to the local school district are not focused on the success of each child. It is not the fault of most teachers. They must work with the tools that they have been given. But they, like the public, have a responsibility to make the system work for the children.
It isn’t enough to say, “I can’t do this because . . .” The teachers must say, “I must have these tools to teach these kids.” Parents must rally and say, ”Why aren’t you teaching my son/daughter to read”? The nation must treat this gigantic failure as a major mental health problem. The kids who drop out, unable to read, will not be capable of supporting themselves except through criminal acts or welfare.
Government through failing subsidized programs like Head Start or through its failing public school systems are the cause and carrier of this health problem. The public carries the solution. They must tell government, “Your failure to prepare my children for life is not acceptable.”
I’m not an authority on education. I just know what works. Every healthy child can learn to read. Parents should accept nothing less.
Murray Bass can be reached at 427-0744 or email@example.com.