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By Dr. Donna Newberg-Long
Principal, Mountain Phoenix Community School

Education in the Age ofAccountability and “No Child Left Behind legislation” is changing our schools.Remember when fostering imaginative play was a good thing? Allowing time forcreative play in preschool and kindergarten led to more creative thinking whenthey grew up. Those days of creative play are largely gone in schools today.The logistics of reading and writing are being pushed down into younger andyounger grades in hopes of raising student achievement in these subjects. Thefact is, research shows this doesn’t necessarily translate into higher scores.

What inspires children to want to learn to read? Is it toplease their parents or teachers, or is it because they realize the worlds thatopen up to those who can read? Comprehending what we read is what is mostimportant. Hence, it seems children should learn to comprehend stories beforethey must learn the logistics of letter sounds and word families. It’s muchlike going on a trip somewhere. If you want to go to New Mexico for a vacation,then you must learn the route to get there. The will to get there inspires youto research on a map and learn the way. Learning to read is much like this.Reading to understand history requires different skills than reading tounderstand science. Hence, learning to read in context provides the bestadvantage to students in comprehension. Integrated approaches to learninginspire greater interest in reading as well. Therefore, providing students withmany opportunities to enjoy stories—from fairy tales to stories of famouspeople in history—leads to an appreciation of what reading has to offer.Schools should provide rich content in which children can learn to read andwrite purposefully, giving children background knowledge that can inspire apassion for learning about the world they live in. Creative thinking should bea goal of education. What 21st century employers are looking for are youngpeople who can think critically and work in teams to solve today’s problems. Tofoster such creative thinkers, we must nurture imagination in our youngchildren and educate them in ways that inspire a love of learning. Preparingour children for a future in the 21st century must include a social educationthat values the development of imagination.