Lloyd Lofthouse, a frequent contributor to the blog, offers advice about how to teach reading:

“By the time I was eight years old, I was an avid reader. The grade school I was attending didn’t have a library but the county had a library bus visit the school every week, and I’d check out the maximum number of books.

“Eventually, I was old enough to ride my bike the few miles to the town’s library and check out books. I haunted that library.

“The high school I attended had a well stocked library where I worked as a student assistant for four years with that one hour a day counted for credit toward HS graduation. The librarian even graded her student library assistants. It was the only HS class where I earned my only A’s in HS.

“In my academic classes, I sat in the back and spent more time reading the books I was checking out of the HS library than I was doing the school work or paying attention to most of my teachers.

“By the time I barely graduated from high school with a 0.95 GPA, I must have read a few thousand books. I was a horrible test taker and usually failed the tests. School work had never been important to me because I didn’t plan to go to college. That would change when I was fighting in Vietnam and a sniper came within a fraction of an inch of blowing off the left side of my head. I felt the bullet caress my ear. I thought if I’d gone to college as my mother had wanted, I wouldn’t have been there. There were several other very close calls from other snipers, rockets, mortars and grenades.

“I was 23 when I was honorably discharged from the Marines and applied to go to college on the GI Bill. The community college gave me a literary test to see what English class to put me in. They had several levels of what’s known as Bone Head English for readers who were not reading at the literacy level necessary for doing college work.

“I passed that literacy test at the highest literacy level and never took a Bone Head English class in College even with my lousy 0.95 GPA out of HS. Imagine what that GPA would have been without those A’s from the librarian.

“If we want children to read at a high literacy level, those same children should be reading every day from books they enjoy—not some crap from a David Coleman or Pearson list.

“For instance, when I was teaching 7th grade in the early 1980s, one mother came to me concerned for her daughter who was a student in the English class I taught. The mother told me that her daughter was reading five levels below grade level. She wanted to know what could be done so her daughter would catch up.

“I said, “Turn off the TV at home, and have your daughter read for at least one hour or more every night at home seven days week, 365 days a year. The more she reads books that she enjoys, the faster her literacy level will grow.” I told her to use the local county library because it was free.

“That mother was skeptical. She even said as much but she promised to do what I suggested—and she did.

“A year later, after the next standardized test to determine reading levels, the mother wrote a letter to the district commending me for my advice because her daughter had jumped five years catching up to her grade level in literacy. That letter went into my file that the district kept of me as a teacher.

“I taught about 6,000 children over 30 years and suggested this to other parents, but this one mother was the only mother who did what I suggested about turning off the TV and replacing that time with reading books.”