Opinion

Everyone’s homework: Read to kids | Editor's Note

Reading is one of those fundamentals that touches every aspect of our lives.

Frankly, our lives would be a mess if we couldn’t read everything from a textbook to a traffic sign to a legal document.

And it’s through reading that kids and adults learn about the world beyond their homes and enjoy the stories created by all manner of authors.

Reading isn’t learned through osmosis, the way that kids absorb their words even before they figure out how to say them. Learning to read takes work and patience, which all takes time.

That’s why successful readers often had the basics down before they even entered a classroom.

The Renton School District has a three-year strategic plan that spells out student expectations. Here are the first two:

• Kindergarten students start school ready to learn.

• Students finish third grade reading at or above standard.

This week, Gov. Chris Gregoire launched a new program she hopes will help all students meet those expectations in Renton and beyond.

The program is called “Read Early, Read Often.” It encourages parents to read to their children at least 20 minutes a day. Learning has to happen at home, and not just at school, where students, often at a younger age than before are expected to meet ever tougher standards. And the same is true for their teachers.

An early learning educator, Bette Hyde, defines what it means to be ready for school.

“School readiness means ready schools, ready children, ready families and ready communities,” she said in an appearance with Gregoire in Seattle.

Gregoire is already putting our money to work to get everyone ready for school. She and the state Legislature created a Department of Early Learning in 2006 and by 2018 all children will have access to high-quality preschool programs.

So Olympia has acted. But the real action is at home. Read to your kids.

Gov. Gregoire has been a champion of the state’s public education system during her two terms of office. Her leadership on early education will be missed when she leaves office, unless, of course, whoever replaces her – Democrat Jay Inslee or Republican Rob McKenna – clearly champion early learning.

From what I’ve read in the papers, McKenna seems to get the importance of pre-kindergarten education. Inslee seems to stress the importance of putting a top-notch teacher in front of a classroom. Both are critical and the successful candidate will have figured out how to do both.

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