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President Says Report Finds Kids Read Too Few Books With AM-Bush

May 28, 1992

ATLANTA (AP) _ President Bush said Wednesday that a new national test of American schoolchildren shows they are reading too few books and watching too much television.

″We’re just not performing as a nation,″ Bush told a classroom of students and parents at Mount Paran Christian School in the Atlanta suburb of Marietta, Ga.

Previewing a report the Education Department will release on Thursday, the president said it shows ″American students spend little time reading for pleasure, rarely visit the library and watch television three hours or more a day.″

He called the statistics troubling and said they show ″we’ve got a long way to go″ to meet his goals of making American students the world’s best in math and science by the end of the century.

The report, ″Reading In and Out of School,″ was prepared by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which periodically examines thousands of schoolchildren in grades four, eight and 12.

This report examined reading levels in 1988 and 1990.

While there was little change in students’ reading ability in that period, the report found:

-One-third of students never read in their spare time.

-One-fourth of fourth graders watch six or more hours of television daily.

-Almost two-thirds of eighth graders and two-fifths of 12th graders watch more than three hours of TV a day.

-One-third of eighth and 12th graders read fewer than five pages a day in school or for homework.

Bush later told a GOP dinner here that the report was ″a little worrisome for this country.″

″The kids are watching over three hours of television a day and reading less than five pages a day. That is wrong,″ said Bush. ″You can’t legislate it, but we’ve got to keep talking out and saying the way to ... help these kids is to have strong family values.″

″The parents ought to read to their kids and take an interest ... in the schools,″ he said.

The report says American schools have been slow to implement reforms in teaching children to read. Teachers still emphasize workbook instruction, despite evidence that the best approach is to combine reading and writing activities, the White House said.

The report found that in homes where there are ample reading materials and where the parents read a lot, their children performed significantly better than other students.

Bush said students who watched two hours or less of television each day had above-average scores on the reading exam.

One of the parents at the Christian school brought up Vice President Dan Quayle’s attack last week on the CBS-TV show ″Murphy Brown″ for the title character’s bearing a child out of wedlock. Quayle, in a speech stressing family values, said Hollywood was glamorizing illegitimacy.

The parent, Ron Braund, a family and marriage therapist, said it was ″risky business″ to take on Hollywood over values, but ″I’m glad that we’ve got this dialogue going.″ Braund did not mention Quayle by name.

Bush said he was committed to trying to shore up family values. Later, speaking to a large crowd in the school’s gym, he said, ″I am I guess what you call a family-values man.″

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