From a Fourth Grade Teacher

I received the following email from a fourth grade teacher in the Lincoln Consolidated School District near Ann Arbor, Michigan:

Last year we had the homework issue come up in an aggressive move from our principal to try and regulated homework across grade levels. It is so over the top!

The amount of homework he proposed was horrid! The teachers and many parents fought the battle to allow the teachers to assign what they believe to be appropriate homework per classroom, child, family, etc. It turned into a battle that we eventually won, with homework not being given by our administrators but by the teachers.

I do not believe in homework! It may surprise you how many teachers do not think homework is helping the achievement gap, but hurting it. I researched and discussed our homework issues with college professors who helped me gather data to support our approach to little or no homework. So I was so glad to see your book! I stayed up reading after a troublesome time with my own daughter and her homework, which lasted over 1 ½ hours, and she is in 2nd grade!

Thank you for the advice and the work you put into this book! I want you to know that educators are listening and are many times on the side of promoting family time verses busy work or homework! Family time is being pushed aside for homework and the children are the ones who are hurting because of it!

P.S. I must also add that not only was my administrator asking for this but many parents were too! I was amazed by that! So educating or helping parents be in the “know” about homework is so important! They need to know they can ask for less and discuss other types they think is right for their own children.

I want you to know also that I am just one of the MANY teachers who care and want less homework here at Lincoln Consolidated and at surrounding Michigan school districts. When I did my research last year I found that the teachers I spoke to followed the 10 minute rule. But I am still concerned, because many times what takes my child ten minutes, may take another child 30!

Many college professors at Eastern Michigan University, the University that puts out the most teachers in the U.S., are also advocates for less homework and more family time! When I told the professors at Eastern Michigan about this proposal, they were appalled! I had great support from them, other staff members here at Lincoln and from many parents!

These are the guidelines the principal was trying to institute:

1st and 2nd grade Monday-Friday
10 minutes Phonics, Sight words or reading worksheet
20 minutes Reading practice
10 minutes Practice worksheet or flash cards for math
40 minutes total
Plus 60 minute of homework on Saturday and Sunday
20 min. reading practice
20 min. social studies
20 min. science

3rd grade Monday-Friday
15 minutes phonics, sight words or reading worksheet
30 minutes reading practice
15 minutes practice worksheet or flash cards for math
60 min. total
Plus 60 min. homework on Saturday and Sunday
20 min. reading practice
20 min. social studies
20 min. science

4th and 5th grade Monday-Friday
20 min. reading assignments (Described as phonics, vocab. based
Worksheets)
40 min. reading practice
20 min. math worksheet practice
80 min. total
Plus 80 min. on the weekends
40 min. reading practice
20 min. social studies
20 min. science

23 thoughts on “From a Fourth Grade Teacher

  1. I am the mother of three children. My oldest son is fifteen years old and was schooled publicly and privately in schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn. My other two children attended private pre-schools and public schools in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
    The sad truth is that both public and private (and Catholic schools too, although my children didn’t attend them, we know plenty of kids who do) are ALL assigning way too much homework. Each kind of institution has their own justification for it. For the private schools, the reason given, but never actually stated in writing, is that the children require all these science projects and other homework, so that the children will remain “competitive.” We were told that the children must have homework in order to “keep up with the Jones’ ” as it were. There is an elitist attitude about schooling in generally, in the private schools in New York City. The parents and administrators are working together on both a sub-conscious and very conscious level, to ensure that Johnny Jr. remains in the class to which these people either felt they were born into, deserve to be in or aspire to be in. Stanley Bosworth at St. Ann’s in Brooklyn, was the only Headmaster honest enough to admit that this was the driving force behind the work, the curriculum, and admissions. As we all know in New York, Stanley is long gone, so there is no one to just say flat out, “My purpose here is to train your children to be elitist. I am elitist.”
    In the public schools, the main reason for loading on piles of homework at night, is overcrowded class size, inexperienced teachers that spend much of the day in classroom mangement instead of teaching and because many parents feel a disconnect from the school (the only connections being fundraisers and field trips) and so the homework provides a link to the school that the parents, teachers and administrators feel they wouldn’t have otherwise.
    St. Anns’, PS 3 in the Village and many other schools, public and private, used to be “homework free!” That did begin to change during the 80s. Who changed it? Who demanded the changes? The parents and then the administrators. Who NEVER wanted more homework: THE CHILDREN! The parents, wrongly, assumed there was a connection between academic achievement and homework. Ususally thrown into this arguement is the need for children to develop “good study habits” or “discpline.” What parents don’t want to admit is that many families in the 80s and 90s were becoming two-wage earning families. Life was becoming much more complicated and it is easier to have someone outside yourself tell you how your evening should shape up, with their agenda, then you coming home from a long day at work, commute etc. and figuring out games to play, paints to get out (doesn’t that sound exhausting and exciting to begin painting at
    8:00pm?), what books to read and what math puzzles to work on etc. The truth is many people WANT someone else to tell them what to do with their kid for a variety of reasons.
    The public school parents, generally speaking, WANT homework for their children and did not defend me last year when I complained to my daughter’s kindergarten teachers, principal and the Board of Ed. that NINE homework assignments,(many with two or three parts to them so it was actually a total of 16 homework assignments in ONE WEEK), was absolutely OUTRAGEOUS and I for one was not going to make her do this! Why did our family get such a small, weak show of support? People are scared. They don’t know how this life is all going to turn out. They’re narcissitic. Many parents showed off these silly photocopied homework sheets to me as a sign of their child’s intelligence. What do I care how many books your kid has recorded on their reading log? I didn’t care, but other parents did care a lot. Many people are uncreative and do not know what to do with their kid anyway, so they are thankful that someone else is telling them how to relate to their child.
    And it also boils down to:…CLASS. Better educated people tend to be in the Upper Middle Class and Upper Class. These people, of which I am one, expect and want different experiences for their children. They want music lessons and expect that children will be afforded plenty of time to practice. They want art and books to be part of the conversation and part of growing up. Reading takes time. so does making art and viewing art.
    I am now in Hastings-on Hudson, where many people share my backround, values and CLASS. Their children are reading the same classics that I read as a child. You practically can’t move here unless someone in your family plays an instrument and almost every house has a piano. People care about nature and beauty.
    So how does this affect homework assignments? In every way. The policy in most parts of Westchester is NO homework AT ALL for kindergarteners. And very little through the third grade. My daughter is assigned homework one night per week for example, and it takes her five minutes to complete. We NEVER have fights or crying over her homework, like I did with my oldest son. And it’s not because she’s a girl or personality differences. It’s because there simply ISN’t an issue!
    My fourth grader has homework four nights per week. It takes him between 20 minutes and half an hour to complete. He does ALL of it on his own. He actually likes it.
    My high schooler has suffered burn-out from NYC schools. He has homework four nights per week here and sometimes week-end homework. But after so much homework, for so many years in NYC, he struggles to do the work here and often gives me a problem. I put most of the blame squarely on the shoulders of the NYC school experience. He does the minimum on the assignments. Some might blame that on being a teen-ager, but I would disagree with that assessment. He’s burnt-out. And it could happen to your kid too…if you don’t speak up.
    Advocate for your kid, even if it means that you risk alienation from friends and administrators. It’s worth it! My little ones practice the piano, viloin, play sports, hang out and LAUGH sometimes, because they have time to.
    STOP THE HOMEWORK MADNESS! Stop it by advocating for your own child, today. One child at a time. Just say, “No” to the teachers and principals. Your children will love you for it.

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  2. Hi everyone. I’m a gr.6 11 year old girl and we have WAY too much homework!!! I hate homework!!! It butts into the stuff you want to do after school. After school should be time to do anything you want! Not sit and watch cars drive by on the highway while you’re doing stupid homework!!!! Like in my class we have something stupid called “P.O.D”. It stands for “Problem.Of.The.Day”. So we have to do one of these EVERY SINGLE DAY!! And it REALLY bugs me! But yeah my point is that homework is just plain dumb and theres WAYYY TOO MUCH!!!!

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  3. I teach 4th grade and well…..no one really is honest about homework!! Many teachers do not grade it!!! Some parents will LIE and say..my son spent 5 hours on his homework!! The kid usually wants time with Mom and Dad and milks the nightly homework routine for all its worth!! Then you have the honest kids and parents that say that it usually takes me 20 to 30 minutes to complete it and they are fine with the amount. They usually leave out the fact that they check their child’s work over and over and they are wanting that 100% because THEIR child has never made a B! That is why I do not grade much of their work done at home. The students know this AND they still will do it. I tell them that it is like ball practice and the TEST and class participation is what I judge their progress by. You will have the kid that does not have anyone at home at night and gets to do it ALL by himself. This child usually does great—–because if you are doing your job as a teacher..the kids can complete the work with no outside help. (Exception: I do some assignments that require family involvement… I allow at least 2 weeks to complete…most students turn the project in within 48 hours!! Except the little learned helplessness CHILD that drives you crazy..because she drives her parents CRAZY with all her endless questions that she DOES know the answers to!!!!! And her parents hate any work at home because they have to deal with their child. Who by the way is usually an overall good student WHO has been babied by teachers in the past and wants everyone to tell them the answers. As I quicky read over this I hope it doesn’t sound “mean”. I am trying to decide what to do about homework this year. I try for a middle of the road approach but it’s really HARD. Parents that want homework want it every night M-Th/Fri and the ANTI homework parents want NONE……Not even a fun biome or soloar system project. I had a parent tell me last year that requiring her son to do a dumb silly project was stupid and SHE didn’t have time to do it. (She???) The kid earned a B…he put all the layers of the Earth the same size. He told me he knew they were not the same but he’d waited until the night before to start and left his science book at school. HE”D had 3 weeks!!!!!!!As a teacher I do not want to assign homework. I do want to assign some FUN projects that involve student choice and creativity. 99.3% of the kids really do enjoy the projects. Will I be judged as not preparing my students by not assigning HOMEWORK??? Well, I started out last year will trying the three nights a week and……it lasted until Halloween. I quit. I told them that i would assign it to to them when I couldn’t get it done right at school. I also stressed that a 7:30ish AM to a 3:30ish Pm school day was long enough if you worked hard when you were at school.. GUESS WHAT?? They worked harder I worked harder and we learned!!! We’ve just gotten our testing results in from last year and I can tell you that my students did great on their state tests and they didn’t have to do a bunch of homework. I guess by writing this I’ve solved my homework problem. I’ll do what I think is best for my class. Limited amounts of homework …sprinkled with some fun projects..and working hard during the day. P.S. I have a very intelligent child of my own….she’ll take 45 minutes to complete a 10 minute assignment!! Hmmmm…perhaps this is an underlying influence of my position!!!!!!!SMILE!!!

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  4. I pulled my two kids out of school, I have five total, two that did all the homework and graduated successfully although one took one extra year and the last three had a terrible time because of all the homework, I pulled the last three out and homeschooled them as I can control the homework thing. The main thing is what do I need to know and just tell them so they know, they do not need piles of homework to learn something.

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  5. I don’t know what the answer is. I have to be honest, those kids in the new york city private school system get into the best colleges, that’s the majority, not the minority, they have the very best college placements amongst anywhere. This is why it’s so impossible to get into them, I’ve been trying desperately to get my child into them. The fact is, I want him best equipped as possible and that doesn’t mean that I am not participating in his education, I am, I resent anyone saying my trying to send him to this type of school is not participating – you have no idea the schedule private school kids parents have, they’re at those schools ALL THE TIME and very involved. If I have to choose the best, it’s one of those programs. I have a friend in California whose child is in a no homework policy until 4th grade and she likes to boast of how her kid is in a gifted and talented program there (which parents push for, and it’s not based just on what the educator thinks) – and to be honest, he is a year older than my son and clearly not very bright, especially in contrast to his age group who are new york city private schoolers and public schoolers. So, if I have to choose for my kid, I would choose a nyc private school.

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  6. I am a fourth grade teacher and am intrigued by the emotion that is being expressed about homework. I struggle with the “homework question” myself. I have two very distinct views on the matter.

    First of all – I think homework is important especially longterm projects as it increases students’ ability to manage their time. In school their time is managed for them. It is important that students practice being “students” to ensure their ability to pursue educational opportunities in the future.

    The issue with homework these days isn’t necessarily the students not having the time but the parents. Our society “WORKS” too much. Parents are getting home too late and kids are staying too late in afterschool care. That is where the interruption of “family time” occurs.

    Children need to be enouraged to complete their homework on their own without their parents constant supervision – which is not the case in most situations these days. Tasks that children could complete inclass on their own become seemingly impossible when they are sitting next to their parents or guardians.

    School is not like being at work for children. Much of their day is enjoyable and that is why most children after being out of school for so long want to go back. They miss lunch and recess with their friends. They miss the games and the social aspect that comes along with learning. I spend my classtime teaching both through presentation, hands-on experiements/activities, etc. My students often practice skills learned in class for homework which leaves me more time in the day to teach and for my students to learn new things.

    On the other hand – I do not believe that homework should be repetitive. I do not understand why students need to complete 30 division problems when they can show you in five if they understand the concept. Therefore, I do not often send large practice assignments home. I do believe that is where the concept of homework can be lost.

    I also am a big believer in “family time”, but what is “family time” defined as? Sitting in front of the T.V.? Watching a movie? Taking a walk? Why can’t “Family Time” also be working on Susie Q’s Socials Studies project on creating a travel brochure or on Johnny’s Biography project.

    Homework has not been created to punish the child or the parents it is used to encourage and promote lifelong learning and study skills.

    These are just my “current” thoughts on the matter.

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  7. I feel that there is nothing wrong with a little math homework but when you have a child that struggles and he tries his best and works hard, how is an overload of homework good for them? They get frustrated and so stressed out that they are not learning! My son felt like he couldn’t catch his breath the other night with this math he was doing. It took him forever to do it and he does need help! He can get learning support from school for his math when needed and they can cut down on the questions when need be. This teacher wasn’t doing that and you know what, my child is not going to get sick from doing math homework for 2 hours. I will be honest that it probably would not of taken the average child without any trouble in math to do it in 2 hours but it does take my child longer. He is not lazy and was afraid if he didn’t get it done he would be punished at school the next day! Needless to say my son has now been moved from that class because it was run like a boot camp!!!!

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  8. Hi am a mother of two yr 2 and yr 6 and we are moving from Australia to New York. I would love to know what public schools in and around New York have the no homework policy. Any help would be most appreciated.
    Thankyou
    Nettie

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  9. This just shows how lazy parents make for lazy kids. When my children don’t do their homework, they learn less because they have to spend time the next day going over the material again in their classes. Yes, there is no study that shows homework helps, but all you have to do is look at the difference in grades between kids that do, and kids that don’t. Children in Finland, for example, not only do a lot of homework, but they start high school a full two average years ahead of American kids. Quote: “In The Netherlands, high school is called “middelbare school” (literally: “middle school)” and starts right after the 8th grade of primary school (group 8). The pupils who attend high school are around the age of 12.” From: “http://www.answers.com/topic/education-in-the-netherlands” Who do you people think you are? This current generation of children is what our grandparents were afraid of…. a generation of slackers! I work 40 hours a week, i have a good job, provide for four children, and they do their homework. And guess what? THEY ARE ALL GETTING THEIR GRADES IN THE TOP 95 % OF THEIR SCHOOL! And all the others that have the highest grades, they all do their homework too. If it wasn’t for homework, kids wouldn’t remember anything that they learn in class, or at least have a hard time remembering it. Today’s children for the most part, because there are some good ones, are lazy and have no imagination or future, except maybe McDonalds, Wendy’s or Burger King. No, wait. THEY ARE STARTING TO REQUIRE H.S. DIPLOMAS OR EQUIVALENT TOO! Guess those poor, lazy “Homework is Slavery” children are SCREWED, HUH?

    FINLAND!!! TWELVE YEARS OLD, FOR GODS SAKE! OURS ARE FOURTEEN BEFORE THEY GET OUT OF MIDDLE SHOOLE AND START 9th GRADE!! That is PITIFUL!! WE ARE “THE MOST POWERFUL NATION ON EARTH”, AND WE CAN’T EVEN EDUCATE OUR KIDS PROPERLY? WHAT DO YOUTHINK THAT SAYS TO THE REST OF THE WORLD ABOUT THE “CONTENT OF OUR CHARACTER” to quote the late great Dr. King. He, and other great men and women like him, DID THEIR HOMEWORK!! And are probably turning over in their graves right now, wondering why they even bothered trying to change this world if all we do with their gift is screw it up. LAZY PARENTS JUST DON’T WANT TO HELP THEIR KIDS BECAUSE THEY CANT REMEMBER @#$%! Why, you ask? Maybe they didn’t do their HOMEWORK! You think the President’s children do their homework? Do you think Mr. President did his homework? Lazy people, CAN’T STAND EM! Good Day, and have a good LAZY life.

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  10. Whoops, MIDDLE SCHOOL. I am wearing bandages while i type. Some of us HAVE an education, did our homework, and graduated high school on time or EARLY! My job, I get cut all the time, hence the bandages. I am a chef with a lot of education, took a lot of school and HOMEWORK, to get where i am. YOUR KIDS ARE GETTING SCREWED, ALRIGHT. NOT BY HOMEWORK, BUT BY LAZY OLD YOU!!!

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  11. Jamie writes:

    This just shows how lazy parents make for lazy kids. When my children don’t do their homework, they learn less because they have to spend time the next day going over the material again in their classes.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Thank you for calling me lazy. I’m amused at how quickly you would dismiss us and me by extension, calling us lazy and our children even lazier.

    I’d like to walk you through a Day in the Life of a Lazy High School Junior. Yesterday my daughter began her homework in school. Her school has built-in activity periods twice a week which extends the school day daily. Instead of attending her beloved groups, my very lazy daughter, as you call her, sat and studied math for the entire block of an hour and a half. This lazy daughter is in an AP BC calculus class as a high school junior.

    This very lazy child then stayed after school in a teacher’s classroom to continue math. It’s a challenging course and I’ve been encouraging her to get some help from a kind teacher. This very lazy child is also very shy and doesn’t reach out for help when she needs it, she bottles it up and toughs it out.

    My lazy child then called me at 6:30 to come pick her up. I was in the middle of preparing dinner,but dropped what I was doing to run get her. Not a minute to waste here in the home of laziness. She needs every minute to study for that test.

    When I got to school, my daughter was sitting on a bench and was in flow, continuing to study for a major math exam and complete the five-plus worksheets and problems she still had to master by the next day. I didn’t want to break up her concentration so hung out at the school for an extra hour with nothing to do, to support her math homework efforts. I guess that makes me lazy too!

    When we got home, my very lazy daughter began reading the A section of the Washington Post. Yep, lazy again. Who does she think she is, taking a short break after going straight for eleven hours? I also noticed her lunch was untouched. Concerned she’d gone all day without eating, I asked her about it. “Oh, my partner and I were in the physics lab during lunch period,” this very lazy girl replied.

    Eventually my lazy child got back to math and continued all night. She took a twenty minute break for dinner. Many hours later, I discover she had an English project due the next day. Oh, my, I am thinking. This is bad news. She and her English partner were IMing on the project till 1am. I was there, I saw the content, it was all on task, as they say, protesting she must get off NOW.

    My very lazy child then tumbled into bed just before two. And then she drops another bomb, she has to be at school early to meet with her English partner.

    You say that these lazy children who don’t do their homework won’t learn as well the next day. So please tell me, because I am just too lazy to figure it out all on my own; just how much do you think my lazy daughter will learn today, on five hours sleep? Just how well do you think she will perform on an exam she’s spent days studying for? You would be proud to be as lazy as my sixteen year old.

    I confess that’s as far as I got in reading your post. It’s not that I cannot accept differing view points. It’s just that as I gaze at it, there are so many caps, you are shouting, cursing too, that I’m not sure you’re worth it, frankly. All I can say is, my daughter is one heck of a lucky kid to have landed in my home instead of yours. Lazy mother and daughter notwithstanding.

    Simmer down, Jamie, and do some research on homework. Also listen and read what many parents are writing here. Read Sara’s book. This will all take some effort, you’ll want to curb that laziness. But you’ll be amazed at what you learn..

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  12. Anonymous #3 writes:

    As I quicky read over this I hope it doesn’t sound “mean”.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    It’s not so much that it sounds mean that gets my goat. That part’s okay. It’s just so poorly written. Since you say you teach 4th grade, I would support your pro-homework stance…for you. Looks as if you need it more than your students.

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  13. Just when I was feeling discouraged that the Jamies of this world are winning, I had the pleasure of srolling back even further and reading Brenda Maglich’s excellent essay. It strikes me yet again that the parents advocating for less homework are the more intelligent, educated well spoken ones and the ones clamoring for more and more homework come off narrow minded, shrill, and woefully uninformed on the issues. And that includes many teachers here, who are shooting from the hip, basing their decisions on ideology rather than sound fact and science.

    Brenda spells out in vivid clarity the reasons that both private and public overload with ridiculously excessive homework and the reasons are different. Brenda, I did private, public, homeschool and now regional magnet public school so I will say you are dead straight, spot on in your analysis. Exclusive private schools seek to promote elitism and I’ll clip here a snippet from your explanation, vis a vis public school:

    “In the public schools, the main reason for loading on piles of homework at night, is overcrowded class size, inexperienced teachers that spend much of the day in classroom mangement instead of teaching and because many parents feel a disconnect from the school (the only connections being fundraisers and field trips) and so the homework provides a link to the school that the parents, teachers and administrators feel they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

    Read that paragraph and read it again. If you are a teacher, read it three times. Jamie, those of us decrying homework overload, much of it busywork and useless, are not lazy.

    When our children read all afternoon, they are not being lazy and I doubt they are going to forget everything they learned that day. As I stated before, all the research shows they are most likely NOT to retain what they learned on five hours sleep. If our children forgot what they learned in school that day, it’s not because they didn’t do homework. It’s because what they learned that day wasn’t worth remembering in the first place.

    I wrote here once that many teachers waste a lot of the students’ time. Not all teachers but many, that has been our experience as we sought to understand why nothing done at school was coming home. Read Brenda’s description of teachers spending more time on classroom management than imparting knowledge. We understand that the causes are myriad, not always the teacher’s fault, by any means. But please don’t try to pull the wool over our eyes, convincing us our kids need all this crap to:

    1. be competitive in the world
    2. retain what they learned at school
    3. teach responsibility
    4. prepared for first grade, fourth grade, sixth grade, middle school, high school, college.

    The real reason all this work is sent home is that it didn’t get done during the day, to impress the parents, and a misguided uneducated notion that children must be kept busy all afternoon because they wouldn’t do a single responsible, creative or purposeful pursuit unless we forced them.

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  14. Well, Anonymous #3, I should have read your whole post before responding. I got about as far as the “little learned helplessness child who drives you and her parents CRAZY because she asks too many questions.” My child always asked a lot of questions too. Not about the homework, just insatiable curiosity. It never drove me CRAZY, I couldn’t get enough!

    Well, I guess you answered your own question. I hear your confusion about homework. Go the no homework route, even Jay Mathews at the Washington Post endorses it and he’s about as traditional as they come.

    Yesterday he printed ideas from parents and will miracles never cease, Mathews actually reinforced his no homework in elementary in lieu of reading proposal. One teacher wrote to say we’d all be sorely disappointed, that the children who need to read the most do it the least and there’s no “accountability.” I guess he thinks making Johnny fill out a reading log would turn him into a reader.

    Sigh. Here we go again. My daughter would read till the cows came home, if only school would let her. But she must get piles of homework because Johnny won’t read. I feel terrible for Johnny. But how does preventing my child from reading cause Johnny to read more?

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