Monday, May 08, 2006

Talking about reading and talking...

Oooh, controversy and seriousiness again here on Gottabook....

Children's book author Patricia Polacco has an open letter to Educators, Librarians, and Media Specialists on her website, but the letter should really be read by parents, writers, and anyone with any interest in children's education.

In short, Ms. Polacco did not appear at a McGraw Hill/SRA sponsored event at the recent International Reading Association Conference in Chicago when she learned that her speech had to be approved and be "upbeat, non-controversial, and non-political." Ms. Polacco is a longtime critic of the No Child Left Behind Act, and McGraw Hill/SRA happens to make a lot of material that sells (at least in part) due to said act (including Open Court).

This isn't censorship, per se, as Ms. Polacco was to be an invited guest at a private event, but if the company is so concerned that negative statements could somehow undermine their programs, it surely seems to me that they have no confidence in said programs (or that Act that enables them). So why should others? There are also other controversies involved here, including a history or ties between the Bush family and McGraw Hill, as discussed on Jim Trelease's site. (For those who don't know Jim Trelease's Read-Aloud Handbook, I highly recommend it.)

I'm less concerned about the "education only for profit" aspect of this as I am with the fact that there really can't be a "one size fits all" method to teaching reading. I am not an expert, but I observed one class with Open Court and knew that it would NOT work for my son. In fact, it would kill any joy he had found in reading. Still, I am sure it works for others. The point to me, however, is that the company behind it shows an attitude that is the exact opposite of what we should teach our children: to listen, learn, work to better, and be open to the fact that not everyone will ever share your opinion. Bad show... but a good one by Ms. Polacco.

(EDIT on 5/12: head on up to this post for an update, including a comment from SRA/McGraw-Hill posted elsewhere on this blog)

8 comments:

Lady S said...

Don't like "NCLB" either. Can't find Patricia's letter.

Gregory K. said...

Her letter is on her website which was linked in my post AND again here! Patricia Polacco's site

fusenumber8 said...

Er... no no no. I was not actually at the IRA myself. I just heard about it through the Child_Lit listserv. I wish I could jet set off to Chicago for any and all child-literature related activities but with my incredibly large and glamorous librarian salary, somehow that is not the case.

Gregory K. said...

Hmm... then I've removed the link to your post for now, as I thought you'd actually seen those signs. If you spoke to someone who actually saw the signs up, I'd like to know. And here I thought librarians were like Hollywood movies stars, jetting around the world and "doing good." How sad!

Karyn Romeis said...

Like lady s, I also couldn't find the letter. No problem finding the site - your link works fine, but the site is one of the busiest I have ever seen, and I was unable to find a link to the letter.

I don't know a lot about NCLB - living as I do outside the US, but I have noticed that it has received many mentions in the blogosphere.

Gregory K. said...

The letter is the first thing you see on her site. It looks like everything else has been pushed down so that the letter is at the top of screen. There is no link to it. And yes, there's a lot going on on that site!

fusenumber8 said...

Polacco's letter itself mentioned the signs. I was just relaying information that she herself gave. First source stuff, doncha know. I don't know anyone who was there, personally, of course. And if you go to Roger Sutton's blog he offers the IRA's tepid response.

Gregory K. said...

I see two things. First off, no wonder others couldn't find the letter... as it had been briefly removed! It's back, and is also available here

But Fuse -- the "first source" info about the signs isn't info. It was Patricia Polacco's REQUEST of what should be put up. It would be news if the signs WERE put up. I have requested winning lottery numbers many times, but it hasn't come to pass, ya know? (Psst... got the winning numbers???)