A book is a portal to another world, its possibilities so fresh and exciting that readers forget the drab environment of their day-to-day lives.

If books open the door to other universes, however, they also represent the gateway to a bright future.

When students read on their own, whether it is Harry Potter or the latest offering from the Oprah Winfrey book club, they do better on tests that measure both their reading and math skills.

Unfortunately, the reverse is also true; when they do not read, their test scores decline.

The National Endowment for the Arts recently released a report that should be a wake-up call to every parent and teacher in America.

Based on an analysis of data from a host of academic, foundation and government surveys, including studies by the Census Bureau, the report shows that, while test scores are improving among elementary school students and remaining flat among middle school students, they are declining at the high school level, the New York Times reported.

And the report links the drop in test scores to a corresponding drop in the amount of time the students spend reading not reading for school, but reading for fun.

Dana Giola, chairman of the endowment, said the results of the study are alarming.

”It's no longer reasonable to debate whether the problem exists,” Sunil Iyengar, director of research and analysis for the endowment, told the Times. ”Let's not nitpick or wrangle over to what extent reading is in decline.”

The study points to the profound significance of the non-school setting, because if books are accessible to the students at home, they will perform better at school.

Which means that the problem, while disturbing, is not insurmountable.

But it can only be solved if parents realize that education is not the sole province of teachers.

URL: http://www.mysa.com

— San Antonio Express-News