Education solution? Let’s promote reading

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Charter schools. Teachers unions. State mandates. Local control. Republican. Democrat. None of the above.

In the era of education reform, a former educator and HSPA Distinguished Service Award winner offered some suggestions for newspapers’ role in the solution. And he did not mention any of the polarizing terms flung around so often in recent months.

He simply advocates practicing reading.

Newspapers and education

Jack Humphrey, retired director of the Middle Grades Reading Network, offered suggestions for newspapers to encourage the practice of reading among students:

• Promote the Young Hoosier Book Award program if available to students in your area. Provide a list of the titles and other information to parents and schools.(For more information about the Young Hoosier Book Award Program, visit www.ilfonline.org/yhba/yhba-resources.)

• Investigate the status of school libraries in your community – both personnel and students’ access to books and newspapers. Then highlight one that is working and report on how it keeps the collection current.

• Publicize student programs at public libraries – summer and throughout the year.

• Compare the student population with the number of students with public library cards. Work with PTAs and the schools to increase participation. Write about how to obtain a public library card.

• Newspapers can continue to support Newspaper in Education Week and NIE in general. Publicize schools that have successful programs using newspapers.

• Obtain a letter to the editor from a local curriculum coordinator or write about one who believes in the need to practice reading and how daily reading of the newspaper reinforces the work done in schools to build strong readers and citizens.

A current school librarian explained how the new national Common Core Stand­ards adopted by Indiana strongly emphasize reading nonfiction material – or informational text.

Both spoke to a small gathering of Indiana newspaper publishers recently on a fall day in Brown County.

Jack Humphrey, president of the Indiana Newspaper in Education Foundation, and Robyn Young, chairwoman of the Indiana Newspaper in Education Advisory Board, spoke to the HSPA Foundation Board of Directors at the annual joint board retreat.

Young, a school librarian at Avon High School, emails a link to The Indianapolis Star’s e-edition to teachers and students daily. Teachers ask for the link and use it in the classroom.

She explained newspapers can play a role in nonfiction reading in the classroom. Subjects other than English also must meet state standards in nonfiction reading.

In gym class students can read the Sports page, for example, she said.

Young recommends newspapers offer lesson plans that incorporate their print product to make it easier for teachers to use it.

Humphrey holds the rank of colonel in the Marine Corps and is a former reading teacher, counselor, principal, director of reading services, and consultant to the Lilly Endowment. He became director of the Middle Grades Reading Network in 1992, where he continued until he retired a year ago.

Throughout his career in education, he championed the use of newspapers in the classroom to build involved citizens and critical readers. He earned the nickname “Father of NIE Week” for his idea of using the newspaper to teach all subjects. He earned the 2004 HSPA Distinguished Service Award.

Humphrey said building a community of readers involves more than schools. Parents rank as the first and most important teachers.

“Children need access to books and newspapers in their schools, public libraries and their homes,” Humphrey said. “Newspapers are the vehicle to bring the importance of reading practice to the community because the local newspaper is the soul of the community.”