Letters to the Editor. On improving textbooks

The education supplement was both timely and substantive [Oct. 25]. However, it needs to report what publishers are doing to improve textbooks and what schools can do to improve the selection and use of them. Recent research into how children and adolescents can and do comprehend provides valuable insights for writing textbooks. At least two major publishers have contracted reading authorities to translate comprehension research when conducting seminars and workshops for authors and editors of textbooks. Textbook committees should also work with reading specialists to evaluate how well textbooks represent intellectually rigorous content with a comprehendible reading styl e.

Teachers need to know how to introduce textbooks to their students. Students need to know how to read and study their textbooks efficiently. Ultimately, only they can make textbooks a valuable part of the curriculum. Robert Pavlik Cardinal Stritch College Reading/Language Arts Dept. Milwaukee

Educators and textbook companies ascribe too much importance to the place of textbooks in children's learning. Such assumptions give rise to the old saw: ``We should teach children, not textbooks.'' Children are never passive recipients, empty vessels, to be filled with knowledge. Children are, or should be, active participants in learning. John Dewey was correct when he stated that children learn best by doing. Somehow I can't believe he had textbooks in mind. Wendell Edwards Canal Fulton Elem. School Principal Canal Fulton, Ohio

Recommended: 6 reader views on Common Ground, Common Good

Your special section on education contained some important truths about the problem of inadequate textbooks.

However, a sidebar contrasted the ``dry and incomplete'' text from a popular high school history with the ``significantly more memorable'' text rewritten by two former Time-Life employees. Both versions contain an analysis of the Vietnam situation that is more propaganda than fact. Furthermore, the Time-Life team sacrifices accuracy to style. Their version begins, ``While America triumphed in peaceful competition with the Communists in space . . . .'' In fact, during the time under discussion, the US re mained behind the Soviets in space achievements.

Dr. Jeanne Chall is quoted on the problem of ``too easy'' texts. Chall co-authored the Dale-Chall Readability Formula, the oldest, most widely used ``formula'' to ``prove'' that texts are written at an appropriate grade level. Writers of school texts know that to make their writing conform to this formula's demands, they must do precisely what your article says is wrong -- eliminate the ties that link sentences and overuse shorter words. Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler New York

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