Bend In The Branch

The personal opinions of one among many.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Books: The Need Remains

I met with the school principal today to discuss my concerns about the summer reading assignment.

Rational discussions with those who have preconceived notions are difficult at best, and while I suppose it was easy to confuse my objections to the details of the summer reading assignment as an absolute objection, I confess I tired quickly of unnecessary attempts to placate me with rhetoric.

After listening politely to one variation or another of “We are doing out best to promote reading and learning as a lifetime activity”, and being completely discombobulated by the tales of attempts to meet this goal, I could no longer hold my tongue.

“It’s not working for you, is it?” I asked.

There were moments of tense debate when it was intimated that I was a parent who depended on the school to provide for my child.

I replied, "You really need to know that I am a single parent. As such, I have no unlimited source of income, and before you continue along these lines, please understand that there was a day when I had no job, a newborn, $200.00 in food stamps and no money to pay the light bill, much less purchase a book. You also need to know that as limited as my income may be, my child's needs, be they educational or any other, have never gone unmet. Furthermore, I’ve taken it upon myself to purchase used books to donate to the library for children who have no other access to them. I’ve also solicited friends and family to do the same.”

I went on to explain that I was educated, informed, scoffed at attempts to use state and federal education requirements in a threatening manner, and questioned whether or not grants specifically provided by both governing bodies for reading initiatives had been applied for or were being properly utilized.

My retort was met by reasonable discourse. While the assignment has not been revoked, concessions have been made.

Inventory of classrooms and the school’s library will be made in an effort to provide as many copies of the books as possible to the county library.

Efforts will be made in the future to give parents advance notice of summer reading assignments so as to provide the opportunity of purchasing inexpensive copies of the books from a large publishing/media corporation.

Efforts will be made to expand the required reading list in the future.

Accelerated Reader test results will not be utilized for grading purposes.

The school has provided 60 copies of books assigned as required reading purchased with grant monies to the county library: 15 copies each of Maniac McGee, Taking Sides, My Side of the Mountain, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. As of this writing, all 60 copies of these books have been loaned.

The county library’s inventory as of this writing contains no copies of Hatchet; no copies of Maniac McGee; 5 copies of Summer of the Swans (all have been loaned); no copies of Taking Sides; 4 copies of Island of the Blue Dolphins (all have been loaned); 4 copies of My Side of the Mountain (all have been loaned), 1 copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond, 2 copies of Rumble Fish (1 is available), 1 copy of Woodsong (loaned); and no copies of If I Should Die Before I Wake.

In that only one week has passed since the summer reading assignment was issued, I think it obvious the parents and students of our school district are committed. I also think it painfully obvious that need (77 books for 591 students) outweighs supply and again ask that if you are able to give a child an opportunity otherwise denied, please, please contact me.

Thank you, -p-

PS: A special note to one: You have a heart of gold. I have always been and will remain eternally grateful for you. Though you have no children of your own, you endeavor to be a source of great support and inspiration. The books were received today and will be delivered to the county library tomorrow. Thank you, my friend, Thank you!


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