Cal State Long Beach Professor Claude Goldenberg was among some 20 literacy researchers and educators from across the country who recently took part in a Reading Roundtable at the White House with newly-inaugurated President George W. Bush.
First Lady Laura Bush, a former teacher and librarian, and Secretary of Education Rod Paige also attended the Jan. 22 gathering in the historic Roosevelt Room to discuss literacy in the United States. The roundtable was held on Bush's first official day as the country's 43rd President.
"Aside from the symbolism involved in spending a full 45 minutes on his first workday as president, Bush wanted to hear from reading researchers and successful practitioners what the issues and priorities ought to be regarding the improvement of reading instruction and achievement in the United States," said Goldenberg, professor of teacher education and associate dean for the CSULB College of Education.
Reid Lyon of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development also chaired the meeting and read some letters that children from McGaugh Elementary School in Seal Beach, including Goldenberg's two daughters, had written to Bush with suggestions on how to improve reading in the United States.
During the roundtable, Goldenberg was asked to comment on issues relating to children for whom English is their second language.
"I told President and Mrs. Bush that the research is problematic and the subject of much
controversy," Goldenberg recalled. "But, all things considered, the evidence comes down on the side that using the home language at school can make a positive contribution to learning a second language, learning to read a second language and learning academic content.
"Perhaps more important, I said we have to get away from thinking of language as a handicap or deficit," he continued. "We should try to figure out how to move toward bilingualism for everyone and not just for limited-English-proficient kids."
Goldenberg is known nationally for his expertise in children's reading difficulties, particularly in the area of bilingual education. He served on a National Research Council panel studying the issue and in 1997 wrote a report titled "Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children."
He is involved in a four-year research study that will look at the literacy development of more than 1,400 Spanish-speaking children in different kinds of instructional programs in California and Texas. Funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the project is in its first-year planning phase.
"This (literacy) is a priority item for President Bush and this was clearly one way to show it. I do think he wanted to hear from us as well. He wasn't just doing this for show," Goldenberg said. "President Bush seems to be a good listener, seems interested in the topic and has opinions about education."
| Public Affairs Offices/Campus News
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