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Helping our children

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I was visiting my grandchildren the other day when the oldest boy Mikko got up and announced, “Done!” I looked up as he showed me the book (about an inch and-a-half thick) he just finished reading.

Given his young age, it was a pleasantry knowing that he and siblings are into book reading. Occasionally, their parents would take them to the bookstore to select more books to read. I’ve also sacrificed my allowance for this worthy venture. Literacy is important for these kids.

Recalled a purposeful classical conditioning of my youngest into the world of reading and books by showing him my favorite magazine a long time ago—Time Magazine—at a gift shop in Honolulu. I also took him to two other bookstores where he selected books and DVDs on reading and arithmetic that he opens up daily after class or on weekends. He could only move to the next lesson by answering every question right in the quiz. He was done in three months, materials designed for a full year.

By the time the kid was a freshman in high school he’d finished books I’ve read as a freshman at UOG. He breezed through it all and scored superior in his SAT scores in both reading and math. He never had to take the entrance exam when he entered the University of Texas. It’s the benefit of honing his reading, writing, and basic math skills.

May I encourage you to do the same with your children? Help them with their homework in reading, writing, and arithmetic or math. Use the buddy system and make learning fun for them. That you’ve become a part of their daily studies is sufficient for them to know that you care about their academic progress.  In the process, they get to learn what’s the story in the book. Make sure you’ve read the materials or books in advance.

As they move into more complicated materials, they also begin to learn critical thinking, identifying what’s at issue or the story, use of judgment and reasoning or analysis. For instance, we could identify a bird as having wings and flies. In using our judgment, we categorize birds as winged creatures with feathers. What about if we come across a fruit bat that also flies? We descend into reasoning to discern that though it flies, it isn’t a bird at all. It has a special fur, not feathers.

In brief, let’s help them with their reading, language, and numbers. Imagine if they could do it in both their native tongue and English. We would have set them up to deal with challenges ahead in critical thinking. Trust me, it’s humbling listening to college-educated kids articulate issues, be it the twist and turns in a literary piece or political fodder.

Illiteracy at home
Our educational institutions (PSS, NMC and trade school) have given it their best effort to ensure literacy among our young folks exiting high school.

Nonetheless, below the calm lagoon waters is a vicious undercurrent we can’t see with the naked eye—illiteracy especially among those who drop out of school—kids we train for jobs in the private sector. Sad that most can’t even read or solve basic math problems.

There are only so many jobs that could go around in the trades in construction work, etc. The higher paying jobs all require some semblance of literacy in the language and basic numbers or math. But illiteracy is the fundamental problem for many of the trainees or students that requires remedial courses just to enable them to move forward.

Not sure what’s the extent of this inadequacy but key players in both sectors must converge to do a realistic assessment if the NMI could factually meet federal mandate to rid itself of guest workers.  I have serious doubts that it is a realistic deadline but a deadline we must deal with. It’s a community problem that ranks highest on our shopping list of “problematic” issues.

Our education experts, in concert with key players, should converge to trump out this rather heavy excess baggage hailing from years of neglect. It’s a long march and we could only make it to our destination beginning with the proverbial first step. Not only is there a dire need to instill literacy in language and numbers but computer literacy as well.

Let’s discard intramural feud and begin collaboration in the hopeful resolution of our problems right here at home. The fiscal impotence is more that sufficient a signpost to probe and resolve over the next year or so. Must do it with a sense of vision, leadership and thoughtful plans. Let’s not fail because we’ve simply failed to plan.

John S. Del Rosario Jr. | Contributing Author
John DelRosario Jr. is a former publisher of the Saipan Tribune and a former secretary of the Department of Public Lands.

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