Reason to Read

Help literacy find its mark

"It's the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting . . . "

-- From Paolo Coelho's "The Alchemist"

The virtue of reading so well described above is from a book chosen by Les Perkins of Mt. Hood, one of five Hood River County readers who describe one of their favorite books in "Beloved Books" on page B1 of this issue.

All five respondents readily agreed to write about a book, and all five made the same observation: it was tough to decide. Surprisingly or not, none of the readers had one single book that stood out. This is what comes with reading plenty of good books.

The feature on page B1 is merely a reflection of opportunities for enjoying and increasing literacy in Hood River County.

Meanwhile, impending budget cuts threaten to strap the state's schools, putting at risk the critical goal of reading skill development.

The 2002 State of Oregon Report Card for Hood River County School District gave mixed reviews to students' reading levels when it was issued earlier this month. Among eighth graders, 53 percent met the 2001 state standards, compared to 62 percent statewide. Fifth-graders were slightly behind the state rate of 77 percent, with 75 percent meeting the standard here.

What's encouraging is that among Hood River County third graders -- a crucial age for reading in terms of both skill and motivation -- 86 percent met the standard. The state average is 84 percent. And 58 percent of Hood River 10th graders met or exceeded the standards, compared to the state average of 53 percent.

Scores were also mixed among reading's cousin, writing. Third graders were five percentage points below the state average of 75 percent; fifth graders matched the state rate of 75 percent; eighth-graders (at 55 percent) and 10th graders (39 percent) were one and three percentage points below the state averages.

Reading is not just about scores, yet it is about more than "the possibility of having a dream come true."

Somewhere between practicality and joy rests the simple foundations of knowledge gathering and information expression. Neither can happen without solid reading skills.

Opportunities exist for fostering both basic skills and the love of reading. One is 20-20 Vision, described on page A1, the library's new fundraising and reading enrichment campaign.

More importantly are reading assistance programs such as the fledgling START (Start Making A Reader Today) programs at Mid-Valley and Parkdale schools. The Mid-Valley program in particular needs more adult volunteers to spend one hour a week reading with children.

SMART is a new program directed primarily at children of low-income families or others in need of specific reading attention at the primary grade levels. But ask most any teacher in the district if they could use reading mentors in their classes; they'll crack a smile as you crack a book with a kid.

The emphasis on reading is timely. The annual Read Across America is Friday. Every year, on or about the March 2 birthday anniversary of the late Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), students across the U.S. have fun with reading. Schools throughout Hood River County are planning activities to honor Dr. Seuss and books in general.

Schools are always open to visitors checking out what's happening in classrooms, and the sake of reading and all it delivers, Friday would be the ideal day.

To quote Dr. Seuss himself:

"If you never have, you should. These things are fun and fun is good."

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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