MCES Media Specialist expounds on the “Three ‘R’s”
Morgan County Elementary School Media Specialist
I can remember my mom telling me before I started first grade that school was all about the three 'R's – Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic. Of course, this quote was not original with her; it had been handed down for generations. But these three words were the sum total of education. All learning was simply under the labels of reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Education was seemingly so simple in those days. Everyone was eager to learn to read, write, and understand math concepts. They knew that to be successful in the future, they must know and have the ability to use all three. All of us have seen the writings of those who lived before us. The beautiful script, the use of elegant words, and the precision of the pen were all a part of the writing process in former days. The cursive letters were written so uniformly that they had a special beauty about them. A person’s ideas being printed by pen on paper was an art form all on its own. And letters written in those generations that are found today have become important articles of memories and of history.
Reading was also of special importance then. Reading was not merely a subject in school or a homework assignment, but a pastime, a hobby, a leisure activity, and a passion for many. To curl up on a sofa with a good book was like a holiday. Books were like bread to the hungry, a map to the traveler, a cure to the hurting, a sermon to the needy, and a hope for the future.
School is still all about the three Rs, and the teaching of these subjects to young minds everywhere continues to be of highest importance in our education system. Reading, writing, and spelling have all become known as “language arts,” while all types of arithmetic has become known as “math.” Science and social studies are their own subject areas. Now art, music, and physical education, along with foreign languages, have rounded out our curriculum quota. We offer everything from business to mechanics to agriculture to meet the needs of student populations. Standards have been set, teachers have been trained, and funds have been allocated to ensure that all students get a fair and equal opportunity education. Yet, are our students really interested in reading books and writing papers? I am not sure the answer would be positive.
Is there a problem here? And, if there is, what is the problem? Technology? Partially. Busy lives? Possibly. After all personal computers, Facebook, cell phones, iPods, Game Boys, and Wiis are time consuming, and those that use them to communicate are so busy that they do not take the time to use the rules of writing. Capitalization, punctuation, and correct spelling are mundane when e-mailing and texting. Even a special language of abbreviations has been incorporated for the sake of time. We are quickly moving away from the mechanics of writing in our everyday lives. We are all so busy that emailing and texting seem to be the answer. We spend hours on Facebook conversing with others. Yet, I do not know of anyone who would like to go back to the “good old days” without technology. But, again, I ask if there a problem, and if so, what is it? Maybe we can answer that question by asking a few of our own.
So, what can we do? Slow down. Take time to read- alone in a swing, with your children, or with your mate. There are lots of good reasons to read: to learn, to compete, to feel part of a community, to escape reality, to be interesting to other people, to be well rounded, or just for pleasure. Whatever the reason, take time to read. And, while you are at it, listen to your child read. Ask them questions about what they read. Not just facts but about their feelings, too. Find out what or whom they like to read about. Then encourage them to read even more.
Slow down. Take time to write to someone- your parents or a long-lost friend. Take time to write about some of your childhood experiences that your children would enjoy reading. Write about the things that are important to you and the ideas that are explicitly your own. Then help your children to become writers. Ask them about different subjects and experiences and help them put their ideas down on paper. Expand your time and expand your mind with a little old-fashioned reading and writing.
Reading, writing, and arithmetic are still the foundations of education. Teachers continue to teach the importance of these in classrooms. Media specialists constantly encourage young people to read for knowledge and for pleasure. Administrators consistently make sure that classrooms and media centers are given the resources needed to minister to an ever-changing society. Yet, we cannot impact students to the extent that you, as parents, can. We need you to emulate the importance of both reading and writing in your own home.
So, slow down. Take time to be with your student. If you have a student at MCES, we invite you to the visit the media center where you can listen to soft music, curl up on a chair or lounge on a beanbag, and read with your child. Come sit at the art table to write and draw with them while discussing important issues in their lives. Come play a game of checkers while talking about the importance of getting a good education. Spend time with them within the framework of education and show them how important reading and writing are by being an example they can follow. You have a standing invitation to make a difference in your student’s life simply by showing an interest. It is an investment you will never regret. It will pay dividends in their academic careers, as well as, the rest of their lives.
PRINTED IN THE APRIL 23, 2009 EDITION