Reading is a great liberator

Regarding your April 10 editorial "Revving up reading": You could not be more right about the critical importance of reading. It is the foundation upon which all other learning is based, as I was once assured by a math professor. Our schools have no single task more important than creating a reading culture in their classrooms.

We are currently hindered by bogus phrases like "literacy skills" and "computer literacy" and others that underplay the value and complexity of reading. We are even hindered by a limited vocabulary from assessing literacy itself.

The fact is that literacy is an open activity, one that we can never master entirely. No one reads any but the simplest communications with total understanding.

Reading is also intensely interactive and collaborative. Every demanding piece of writing (that is to say, writing that does justice to the complexity of life) carries the implicit instruction, "some assembly required."

The achievement of literacy requires a lifelong commitment. For this reason, it is no mere "skill"; it is an accomplishment, a practice, a way of life.

Simply put, our educational establishment is doing a poor job of impressing upon students and society at large the primacy of reading, its liberating and irreplaceable contribution to mental development. And in our consumption-obsessed, media-distracted, increasingly less democratic society, we have never needed it more.

Scott Rice San Jose, Calif.

US Forest Service lacks planning

Regarding your April 10 article "West takes steps to prevent repeat of last year's fires": While the article discussed some of the important wildfire issues, it neglected others.

Foremost among these is the lack of planning and preparedness on behalf of the US Forest Service. According to the 1995 Federal Wildland Fire Policy and Review, every burnable acre needs to be covered by an approved fire-management plan. These plans provide for appropriate responses to wildfires in the national forests. They protect firefighters' lives, taxpayer dollars, and valuable natural resources. As of March 2000, the Forest Service had completed fewer than 5 percent of these plans. This was one of the reasons why the Forest Service spent a record-breaking $1.1 billion to fight wildfires during 2000.

The article recognizes that the Forest Service received billions of dollars in response to last year's fires.

It only makes sense that some of this new funding be applied towards the completion of fire-management plans. Implementing such plans should be expedited, resulting in more efficient utilization of firefighting resources, better communication between state and federal agencies, and more appropriate responses to wildfires.

With the 2001 wildfire season nearly upon us, the Forest Service should make the completion of these plans a top priority.

Jonathan Oppenheimer Washington

Elegance will never go out of style

Please add this letter to the assortment of regrets about the closing of Pillar House in Boston ("Has a rose after dinner lost its charm?" April 4).

A former 1960s-era area resident, and later a frequent visitor, I have delightful recollections of extended business dining at the famous and elegant landmark. End of an era, perhaps, but for those of us with the shared life experience of Pillar House, its legacy will long endure.

Ernest C. Pearson San Dimas, Calif.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Due to the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. All submissions are subject to editing. Letters must be signed and include your mailing address and telephone number.

Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway Street, Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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