The title of this post is actually a promotional effort by the Florida Department of Education that goes all the way back to the early years of the Jeb Bush administration and its focus on the importance of reading.
Florida is a funny place, and by that Grumpy Old Teacher (GOT) doesn’t mean comical that always makes you laugh and he doesn’t mean strange. Florida is a funny place because, if you live here a couple weeks, you wonder when you left the planet for this strange world and what star you now orbit.
Case in point: We’re celebrating Literacy Week by banning classroom libraries until the now-extinct species known as a Media Specialist vets each and every book. Just Read, Florida! But good luck on getting your hands on an actual book.
We have canceled book fairs. Purchases and additions to school and classroom libraries are on hold. In GOT’s district, fellow blogger Chris Guerrieri (Education Matters) gathered reports from classroom teachers about what they have been told to do.
Just Read, Florida! But you can’t have a book to do so. The graffiti on the restroom stalls will have to hold you.
Florida is where reading goes to die. Jeb Bush inaugurated the 3rd grade reading retention based upon test scores and has worked for two decades to spread this failed policy to every state. It isn’t that it was a bad idea from the start–we wouldn’t know that until it was tried. It’s that after 20 years of failure, we know this is a bad policy, but it seems that the three worst addictions known to humanity, nicotine, cocaine, and alcohol, have a partner in public education policy: 3rd grade retention based on reading scores.
But the policy was intended to signal the seriousness of Florida about the importance of reading skills and the mastery needed before we allowed children to proceed with their education.
Florida is serious about this reading, y’all. Districts eagerly bought into every idea that turned reading into a drudgery for almost every child. There was the time when every secondary class had to start with 15 minutes of silent, sustained reading. (Spoiler alert: the struggling readers went for the magazines, every time, and spent the time looking at the pictures and the ads.)
There have been the reading logs, particularly attractive to the elementary ages. Kids had to read a specified number of minutes each night at home, document their reading in a log that they would turn in for a grade, and parents had to sign the log to verify the kid entries.
There was the year in GOT’s district when the district decided to go with novels, but only excerpts. Finally, kids got excited by a book. They got a taste from page 29, page 43, and page 189, and begged their teachers to be allowed to read the whole book. They begged to take the books home to read if they couldn’t do it in class, but were told, “Sorry, kid, the district only purchased a class set. You can’t take the book home.”
Bummer. The last thing we need is for children to get excited about reading a book and motivated to read it without regard to their reading skills.
Perhaps you might understand now why many of us call our state Flori-duh.
PS: the cynical ploy by our politicians, led by Ron DeSantis, is that they don’t want to withhold books from children, but those books need to be vetted first. Maybe in a future topic GOT will talk about what that vetting procedure involves, but for now, understand that Media Specialists have to approve every book in a school that a student will be allowed to look at. Notice GOT didn’t say read. But since Florida schools have eliminated school-based Media Specialists as they have grappled with declining funding, there aren’t many around to do the job. Oh, that Ron DeSanctimonious! Cynically playing his political cards. Books aren’t banned; they’re waiting for someone to run the training gauntlet recently adopted to be in a position to decide on the books schoolchildren will be allowed to access.
PPS: GOT will do his best to fill the void. He is reading the challenged books, vetting them, and will share what he finds. Over the weekend, he read All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson. Expect his decision later this week. Hey, district! Only trying to help. 😉