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Here it is:


Copyright National Council of Teachers of English Conference on College
Composition and Communication Sep 1999 


Dear Mr. or Ms. English Teacher: 

I hope that by the time this arrives the hectic first days and weeks of
school are behind you and that you're settled into the work that you and I
both love: teaching young people about writing, language, and, of course,
literature. I have a keen interest in your work this year, not just because
I, too, am a teacher, but also because three of my children are in your
English classes. Joanne, my youngest, is in eighth grade and looking for
vard to her last year of middle school. Carrie, a ninth grader, is just
beginning her high school career, while Jonathan, my only sOIl, is in his
final year of high school. 

You probably don't know Joanne or Carrie or Jonathan yet, but let me assure
you that they're good kids. They'll participate in class discussions and
activities, rarely be absent, and get their work done on time. I'm pretty
sure they won't distinguish themselves in your classes, but you'll find them
cooperative, hard-working, and pleasant students. 

But this letter is not intended to convince you of the goodness of my
children; you'll know well their strengths and flaws by the end of May. I'm
writing to ask you to work consciously to help my children become readers,
not just readers of school assignments, but independent readers, the kind
who will continue reading on their own long after they've finished school.
I've been working on this all their lives, but now that they're teenagers,
they don't listen to me like they used to. Most of the time, recommended
reading from me is the kiss of death for a book, but your suggestions about
books may actually get somewhere. Just suggesting good books alone, however,
won't be enough. I know my kids and their reading habits pretty well, and it
will be your actions, along with your words, that will ultimately make an
impression on them. 

I realize I'm not their English teacher, but as their father, here's what I
hope you will teach my children about books and reading this year: 

Help them (especially Jonathan) realize that reading books can be a
refreshing and rewarding alternative to TV, movies, shopping, or hanging out
with friends. 

Like most other American teenagers, my children have active and sometimes
interesting lives. They're busy with sports, bands and orchestras, church
activities, part-time jobs, and, of course, school work and study. They
don't have much free time, but on those rare moments when they truly are
bored, I wish they would look to the bookshelf instead of the telephone or
television for something to do. Help them discover-or rememberthe pleasures
of reading. 

You may already know that Jonathan despises reading. Carrie is ambivalent
about it. Joanne sometimes likes it and sometimes doesn't. Please help them
encounter books or stories that will grab and sustain their interests. I'd
like, just once, to have one of them stagger into the kitchen, bleary-eyed
and late for breakfast, because of staying up all night to finish a novel.
I'd love to see them curled up on the couch rereading a favorite book. I
would go to my grave a contented old man if once before I die, and before my
kids grow up, I could hear one of my children talking excitedly to a friend
about a book just finished. 

Allow them to exercise "The Reader's Bill of Rights" (from Daniel Pennac's
Better Than Life [Coach House Press, 1994]) whenever possible. 

1. The right to not read. 

2. The right to skip pages. 

3. The right to not finish. 

4. The right to reread. 

5. The right to read anything. 

6. The right to escapism. 

7. The right to read anywhere. 

8. The right to browse. 

9. The right to read out loud. 

10. The right not to defend your tastes. 

I know that "The right to not read" is a little problematic in English
classes, and it would be the first right Jonathan would claim anytime
reading is mentioned in school. But I would hope that you will teach my
children that these are the rights that real readers, people no longer
confined to schools, live by. Maybe you can allow them to exercise most of
these rights when it comes to their outside, elective reading. Maybe you can
talk to them about how you as a reader exercise these rights. Maybe you can
help them understand how to negotiate the requirements of school with the
rights of readers. Maybe you can simply use Pennac's Bill of Rights as a
springboard for a discussion about reading, how it works, and why it's
important. I'm convinced that whatever you do to help my children understand
and exercise these rights will contribute to their becoming lifelong

Please don't mistake me for the pushy parent that I really am, but in
addition to thinking about tl hat I hope you'll teach my children, I've also
thought about how you can teach it: 

Require and encourage outside, elective reading. 

You and I both know they're busy, but we also know that they probably won't
read much unless they have to. You're in a much better position than I am to
encourage/coerce them to read something other than the required texts for
your classes. 

Steer them toward good YA books. 

Joanne loves Mildred D. Taylor's books, and any book that helps her
appreciate the value of families, high standards, and integrity is fine with
me. She's already crazy about sports and boys; I think she'd love YA sports
novels by R. R. Knudson, Tessa Duder, Chris Crutcher, Dean Hughes, and
Robert Lipsyte, but as her overprotective and probably paranoid father, I'd
really appreciate it if my barely thirteen-year-old daughter didn't read
books that would fan her romantic imagination any hotter than it already is.

Carrie, mv softest-hearted and most empathetic child, would probably be
troubled by some of the good but hard-edged YA novels around. She may be
ready in a few years to take on books that deal with the darker side of
human experience, but for now I'd prefer it if you'd point her to books like
Shiloh; To Kill a Mocking ird: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry; Finding My
Voice; All Together Now, or nearly any one of Gary Paulsen's adventure
books. She might also enjoy some of Lurlene McDaniels tear-jerkers or YA
fiction or nonfiction about female athletes. 

As an avowed "reluctant reader," Jonathan is a tougher nut to crack. He will
resist all attempts to read, but because he is essentially a good studentor
at least because he really wants good grades-he will read when it's
required. He didn't like Cormier's I am the Cheese, but I think he might
like Tunes for Bears to Dance To. He's had good experiences with most of
Gary Paulsen's books, including NightJohn and Sarny and might like Paulsen's
new historical novel A Soldier's Heart. Because he likes ideas and facts,
you might encourage him to discover good YA nonfiction. 

Help them connect with what they read. 

Please give my children opportunities in class to discuss informally what
they've read. Rather than ruining their reading experiences with the
standard book report, allow them some freedom in deciding how to respond to
what they've read. Maybe you can simply conduct an informal interview with
them about their most recent outside reading. 

Nudge them to works related to what they've just read, or, if they're in a
reading rut, nudge them into something different. 

I believe in momentum. If one of my children likes a particular book,
encourage further reading by saying something like, ",Vell, if you liked
that, I'm pretty sure you'd also like this." Of course, I believe that
nearly any reading is better than no reading, but if my children happen to
fall into a real reading rut, please encourage/coerce them into something
new or different. 

Read yourself and talk to my children and their classmates about what you

I worry that my kids have the idea that reading is something only students
do. Sure, they know that their mother and I are readers, but we're merely
their old, slightly eccentric parents. The more you demonstrate your own
enthusiasm for reading, the more my children will begin to see that reading
may actually be a worthwhile activity pursued by people who have real lives.

Read some of what they read. 

If, for example, Jonathan ever got excited by a book, I would hope that
you'd read the same book as soon as possible so you could talk with him
about it. The fact that you would read something that one of my children
read and liked would validate not only their reading experience but also the
book they read. Too often YA books are demeaned by English teachers, so your
willingness to read-and to admit enjoy=ing-a book read by one of my children
would give them and me great pleasure. 

Read aloud in class. 

My teenagers probably wouldn't admit this, but they like being read to. As
an English teacher, you're a good reader. Would you mind taking a few
minutes every once in a while to read aloud to my children and their
classmates? Even Jonathan, the twelfth grader, would like listening to you
read a good story. 

Give them time to read in class. 

You're busy. You have a million things to cover in class. Your day is
already too short. I know all that, but I also know that my kids' lives are
crammed with activities outside of the school day. They can find time to
read at home, but it would be great for them to have even a little regular
reading time in English class. It might help them get into a slow-moving
novel that they would other\wise give up on. It might help them avoid
procrastinating their outside reading. It might show them that you value
reading enough to give them some class time to do it. 

I know you're busy, overworked, and underpaid. I appreciate what you do, and
I sincerely hope you will have your best school year ever. But for as much
as I care about your success as a teacher, please know that I care
infinitely more about the success of my children. For many years, what the,
did and learned was strictly up to me and my wife but now we share them with
you because you're ir a position to give them many things we cannot. ] trust
you'll do just that, and bv the end of this yea that they'll be better off
than they are now. 

But please, amid all the classes to teach, papers and tests to grade,
standardized tests to ad minister, meetings to attend, dances to plan anc
chaperone, and the myriad other things you'll have to do this year, please,
please don't forget that one of the most important things you'll do in the
next nine months is help my children love reading. 

With all best wishes, 

Chris Crowe 



BOOKS. The original laptops. If Reading was a Varsity Sport, Librarians
would rule the world.


Reggie Buresh / Librarian & Webmaster

Mahtomedi High School

8000 75th St. North

Mahtomedi, MN 55115-1795

USA  Phone: 651-407-2157

         Fax: 651-407-2125



-----Original Message-----
From: School Library Media & Network Communications
[mailto:LM_NET@LISTSERV.SYR.EDU] On Behalf Of Keith Schroeder
Sent: Monday, April 24, 2006 1:54 PM
Subject: Target: Article


Does anyone have access to the article "Dear Teachers: Please Help My Kids
Become Readers" by Chris Crowe, English Journal (March 2001): 139*144.  And
the "Statement on Adolescent Literacy" in the September 1999 issue of
Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. 


Thanks in advance for your help!





Keith Schroeder

Information and Technology Specialist

Drama and Forensics Coach

School District of Marinette

1011 Water Street

Marinette, WI  54143

715-735-1512 (voicemail)


"Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of
an ignorant nation. "

Walter Cronkite



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