Letters to the editor (03/24/12)

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Persuasive letters do not change minds
Editor:
As an avid reader of the opinion pages, I have been amused, and at times, irritated by Mr. Mowrer’s long and frequent contributions to the newspaper.
These missives are a strange mixture of intolerance and biblical interpretation.
A recurring theme is his insistence that he is being persecuted because of his faith. I have to disagree.
We live in a society that has a church on virtually every corner, dozens of 24-hour television channels dedicated to “spreading the gospel,” whose interpretation is only limited by the imagination of the groups attempting to raise funds.
Mr. Mowrer has taken full advantage of his First Amendment rights in using the opinion page as his personal platform to proselytize. Obviously, Mr. Mowrer has a competent command of the language, and could find the meaning of the term “persecute” and use it properly.
The fact that his arguments fail to persuade cannot be considered persecution.
Frank Gale
Belen

Belen and its library have a lot to offer
Editor:
My friends and I went to their favorite restaurant in Belen for lunch. I had never been there before. It was very good and I will return.
At one point, Alice turned to me and said, “I love this town.”
I replied, “So do I.”
It’s not just because the people are friendly and they smile and talk to you, it’s so many little things.
People hold the door open for you at the post office and other places. I don’t think it’s because I’m carrying around oxygen; they always opened doors and so have I.
I went to the library looking for “knock, knock” jokes. Diana told me right where to go. I heard a guitar and children singing. It drew me like a magnet.
It was the Children’s Reading Hour — a program aimed at babies to 4 or 5 year olds. It was terrific. The program is run by volunteers, as is the summer reading program.
Now that’s aimed at school-aged kids. It looks like an exciting program.   Some of the goals of the summer reading program are to motivate children to read, maintain their reading skills during the summer vacation and encourage regular use of the library.
That last item is perhaps more difficult than it should be. The Belen Public Library’s hours and days have been cut, 1 to 5 p.m., Monday through Wednesday, and from 1 to 5 p.m. on Thursdays.
From 6 to 8 p.m. every Thursday, free movies are shown. The library is closed all day Friday, and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.
The Belen Public Library also hosts and aids a book club. Our computers are in constant use.
The Friends of the Library put on a great book sale (now every month). It raises money for the library programs and puts wonderful books in our hands at a very low price.
Couldn’t we possibly cut the budget somewhere else so that the library could reinstate their former hours? Benjamin Franklin would be proud of us. Anybody have any ideas?

Nancy Faust
Belen

Children deserve the best education
Editor:
In response to Los Lunas police Chief Ray Melnick’s letter about the importance of supporting public pre-school education relative to later incarceration, I am happy to say I heartily agree with him.
If all children could receive targeted instruction in pre-reading skills, then most every child would be able to read by the end of third grade, as Gov. Susana Martinez thinks they should.
The question shouldn’t even be controversial, but it is. Why?  Money, of course. Think how much it would cost school districts to bring two more years of good instruction on board.
But, as the chief says, we could transfer the money from corrections to education to pay for it, after a transition period.
Another controversial issue is how to spend the two extra years of public education. Should the children just be exposed to beautiful books about dragons, dinosaurs and princesses, and eventually they will figure out what the words are? Or, should they be drilled on names of letters until they can recite the alphabet in unison like little robots, then progress to reading “Dick, Jane and Sally?” Probably neither.
What works best is to teach phonological and phonemic awareness (old fashioned phonics), not just what sound is attached to what letter, but how to blend them together to make a word.
I have to admit, that was the one good thing about No Child Left Behind is they insisted that schools use methods that were proven to be effective and “phonics” is it!
The next trick is to have reading material that is decodable, meaning that it has sentences with words that can be sounded out.
All this is presented directly to the children by teachers who have been well trained in the phonemic structure of the language, of course.
These methods and materials work well to teach all children how to read, but are absolutely essential for the 10 in every 100 children who are dyslexic.  Dyslexic kids don’t see letters and words backwards; they have a really hard time recognizing speech sounds in words, connecting them to letter symbols, and blending sounds together to make words.
They can be taught to do this, but it takes direct, targeted, multi-sensory instruction in small groups, that goes in small steps with lots of review and practice!
So, only when such effective pre-school programs are in place, should we even think of having kids who can’t read in third grade be “retained.”
Kudos to Chief Melnick!  Caution to Gov. Martinez!

Janet Yates
Los Lunas