Review by Stephen Page
Angela Pradelli’s Libro de lectura is a book-length essay on teaching in Argentina based on the accounts of a writer who has taught in Argentine public schools. Up until 16 years ago, attending a public school was free and unbiased to all students. Teachers were paid a livable salary and the level of education was high. Even the very rich sent their students to quality public schools. All that has changed—since 2001, public school teachers’ salaries have risen very little, or in some cases, diminished, so many of the talented teachers have chosen to move laterally to instruct in private schools, where the pay is higher.
This book is about the children in the schools as well as the teachers. The essay is divided into chapters. Each chapter tells a different story. Most every chapter opens with a poignant scene of one of the kids, his or her everyday life before or after school. Then each story moves to the classroom where the difficulties and erudition are shown in a society where class often decides how well the students learn. Poor and lower middle-class students come to school without their books, their paper, their pens, and their desire to learn. One student repeats the sixth grade because her neighborhood has no high school and she has no safe and viable means to arrive at any other outside her impoverished neighborhood. Another student uses pages of her textbook to wrap her feet so she can walk to school on a winter morning (what a wonderful metaphor you could make with that). As Pradelli humanely points out, it is up to the teachers to change that—make the classes interesting, encourage the despairing students, and pay for some of their supplies from their own lint-lined pockets. In classes where you have a student of superior intelligence and/or another who was socialized in an inferior environment, special assignments and subtle attention are given. Some of the solutions I mentioned from Pradelli’s book seem simplistic, and the dilemmas seem familiar worldwide, but anyone who has taught knows that a large percentage of teachers (and school administrators) in the world just don’t care. Apathy and putting in the required hours in order to draw a paycheck are abundant in the teaching world.
Pradelli’s book touches the sentiments of people who are not aware of the pitiful public-school syste m, and encourages those who are aware from losing hope. Each chapter of the book introduces loveable characters—upturned childish faces begging to be taught. Pradelli’s outstanding story telling brings sharp focus to an often looked-away problem.
You can find the book here:
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