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Students Sound Off: Senior Karen Wisniewski Believes Graduating Starts With A Love Of Reading

Students Sound Off

The Huffington Post   Karen Wisniewski First Posted: 01/10/11 08:33 PM ET Updated: 05/25/11 07:25 PM ET

"Students Sound Off," is an ongoing student blogger contest aimed at providing students a loud and clear voice in the education debate presented by HuffPost Education and Get Schooled. As the third post in the series, senior Karen Wisniewski answers the question:

If you were given the chance, how would you help kids at your school graduate?

At my school, there are few kids who need help graduating. Because when your parents pay $10,000 a year for you to prepare for college, a high school diploma is a more of a mandate than a mystery.

So I am taking the liberty to expand this question to, "If you were given the chance, how would you help kids at any school graduate?" For to this question, I can provide a plain and simple answer.

By reading.

Yes, the simple act of reading is the solution to the student aspect of America's failing schools. Literacy is the key to a student's success, a key that too many educators seemingly pass over for the glamour of math and science. Trendy technology has become the focus of schools as they try to improve upon math and science programs instead of heading back to the basics.

About a year and a half ago, my parents signed me up for Driver Education classes at my local high school. I found myself seated in a classroom with about 20 other teens, all from various public schools. Every day of this class, our instructor had us open our DMV manuals and read aloud, an illuminating experience. And illuminating not because of the many wonders of railway crossings and lane changes the DMV book enjoys so much. Illuminating because I quickly found out that a number of my classmates, all at least juniors in high school, could barely read the straightforward pages of the driver's manual. They stumbled over simple sentences, awkwardly skipping hard words and mispronouncing others. I was amazed.

How could a roomful of teenagers be allowed to operate a car when they could hardly read the regulations? What had gone wrong in their education that they were halfway through high school and unable to verbalize this basic text? Why had nobody ever taught them to read?

If I was given the opportunity to help kids graduate, I would shift the focus in schools from math and science to reading and writing. To do this, we must start with the basics of education, with the moment that a student enters school for the first time.

In order for kids to graduate, they need to be reading at a 12th grade level, comprehending novels, understanding historical texts, and interpreting graphical information. However, this is a task they cannot complete unless every other year they have been performing at or above the standards for their grade.

Teachers must be up to this challenge, motivating their students and leading them up the path of progress. And as for those students who are not up to the proper levels, they need to attend summer school or be provided with additional tutoring to help them meet standard requirements. It is not fair to leave struggling students behind; instead, they must be given the most attention. If students can read at grade level, they will be able to keep up with their schoolwork and therefore feel more confident. By attaining better results in the classroom, students will no longer see school as pointless, resulting in more kids graduating.

All of this starts with the refocus of education from math and science to reading and writing. Without the ability to read critically, students are unable to comprehend complex ideas presented in the math and science fields. Without the knowledge of how to write in a clear and organized fashion, students cannot present their ideas logically. Educators need to understand that developing reading and writing skills will naturally lead to students being more capable of learning information in all subjects. We need to stop skipping over the most crucial stage of a child's education, the part where they read, write, and discuss. By giving students the power that reading provides, they will no longer straggle behind in classrooms their entire academic career and feel embarrassed to be at school. Yes, math and science are important, but only by mastering reading and writing will students gain the ability to succeed in school and eventually graduate. Numbers may provide proof, but words have always provided power.

Are you a high school student who wants to sound off to the HuffPost community and win a chance to blog with a celebrity, politician or activist? Find out how on our contest page or read other essays by high school students.

This contest is brought to you by Waiting For "Superman".

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