To the Editor:
Studies show that children learn to read up until the third grade, and read to learn thereafter. If they can’t read, they can’t learn. This reading deficiency affects student learning, contributes to a higher school dropout rate, and it ultimately will impact their own economic success as well as our country’s ability to compete in a global economy.
As educators and elected public officials grapple with this problem, there are many individuals who are taking a hands-on approach, right in their own backyard.
This month, some 65 members of the Illinois Judges Association are visiting elementary school classrooms to share their love of reading and how it has impacted their lives.
Their calling card? “Abe Lincoln’s Hat,” by Martha Brenner, a delightful children’s book about our nation’s 16th president. The book portrays Lincoln as an absent-minded frontier lawyer who nudged his memory by sticking letters, court notes, and contracts inside his black top hat.
The volunteer judge reads the book aloud to students and engages them in a conversation about reading, history and civics. The book is donated to the school’s library.
This project won’t end in February: It is part of the IJA’s ongoing reading and tutoring program called “Page It Forward.”
Reading is so basic, so essential. We simply can’t afford to let our youth fail to master this crucial skill. We owe it to the next generation to play a part, however small, in helping young students learn, graduate and ultimately become productive citizens in society.
Mary S. Schostok
Justice, Illinois Appellate Court, Second District
President, Illinois Judges Association