As summer winds down and another school year approaches, I find myself getting excited about sharing my love of reading and books with middle-school students in the Rogue Valley.

However, in an era of exponential growth in computer use, dwindling support of public libraries, and fickle funding for public education, explaining to students the relevancy of reading and books is an increasingly difficult challenge. So I would like to enlist your help.

I invite you to write me and my students about your experience with books, perhaps telling us what role books and literature have played in your life and why books and reading still matter. If you'd like, tell us about a favorite book or a reading experience that affected your life.

Whether you're 8, 80, or anywhere in between, I'd be interested in hearing from you. Please send your letters care of me at Ashland Middle School.

Thank you (and thanks to Jim Burke, teacher at Burlingame High School in California, whose idea inspired this letter) and keep on reading. — Karl Pryor, Ashland Middle School, 100 Walker Ave., Ashland, OR 97520

Schools — why are they always trying to reinvent themselves?

The curriculum during the 1940s and '50s was reading, writing, English and math with geography and history rounding it out. Nothing fancy, and it worked. Tests were given and passed, or you repeated the class.

My progenitors came from non-English speaking countries, as did many others. They took it upon themselves to learn English on their own. Now the Latinos want special teaching while doing nothing on their own. My peers spoke English in the home and had to speak it on the job. No special treatment given.

A study of over 30 years with the Indians proved that if the parents do not care and push for improvement all around, all the schooling given will fail. So they terminated the program.

If Latinos will not do what others have done, it is their problem and not the school's. If employers do not care and insist on English on the job, let them foot the bills for these employees.

This is an English-speaking country and it is up to those who come here to work to learn the language and not our responsibility to learn theirs. — Antone J. Pedersen, Central Point

I was saddened by the recent accounts of the horrific neglect of horses and rising rates of animal abuse in Jackson County.

I understand that the price of gas and the sluggish economy is making it harder to cover the costs of keeping animals, particularly large ones like horses. But there's no excuse for animal abuse, and there's no justification for neglecting them to the point of starvation.

When we decide to bring a companion animal, such as a dog, cat, or horse, into our life, we choose to accept legal, financial and moral responsibility. And if we find that, due to circumstances beyond our control, we can no longer care for that animal, it is our ethical duty to find it a safe home or surrender it.

Abusing or neglecting an animal, whether by design or default, is at least as much about character as it is about cash. — Stacy Bannerman, executive director, Oregon Animal Sanctuary, Applegate Valley

Regarding "Legislation aims to reduce timber losses," Aug. 13: Thank you for covering how free-trade policies have cost the state more than 10,000 forest products jobs.

Oregon's pulp and paper workers have been hit especially hard by this trend. The thousands of families directly affected have faced severe hardships, while the wider community suffers from both a decreased tax base and increased competition for a limited number of jobs.

The important thing to remember is that the off-shoring of Oregon's family-wage manufacturing jobs is not inevitable. It is the result of free-trade policies voted into place by politicians like Gordon Smith. Politicians who have repeatedly voted in favor of job-killing trade deals must be held accountable. — Gregory Pallesen, vice president, Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers

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