Sam Blumenfeld wrote letters to numerous mayors around the U.S. offering to improve their students reading skills. They never responded. Here is a letter he send to the Mayor of Newark in 2011:
S A M U E L L. B L U M E N F E L D
161 Great Road Littleton, MA 01460 781-354-2040
January 7, 2011
Hon. Cory A. Booker
Mayor of Newark
920 Broad Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Dear Mayor Booker:
I recently became aware of your efforts to improve education in the city of Newark and
of Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to help you in that endeavor. As a writer of over ten
books on education, I’ve been aware of the problems that beset American public schools
for over forty years and have worked strenuously to find ways to improve the
performance of our children. But the greatest obstacle I have found is the educational
establishment that refuses to make the necessary changes that would guarantee academic
success for all students.
I first became aware of the reading problem back in the 1960s when I was an editor at
Grosset & Dunlap in New York. I was invited to become a member of the Reading
Reform Foundation’s National Advisory Council. It was then that I became aware of the
war among educators between advocates of phonics and advocates of look-say, the
whole-world or sight method that teaches children to read English as if it were Chinese.
I did an investigation of the reading problem and came to the conclusion that the sight
method could cause reading disability and dyslexia among many children. I put all of
this in my book, The New Illiterates, published in 1973. The Establishment response to
my findings was zero.
Determined to provide parents with a way of saving their children from such educational
malpractice, I created a simple, inexpensive, easy-to-use intensive phonics reading
program–Alpha-Phonics–that any parent could use to teach their children to read at
home. It has now been used very successfully by thousands of homeschooling parents
for over twenty years and has produced wonderfully literate children.
In your press release about Newark’s Education Opportunity, it states that “In 2008-2009,
only 40 percent of students could read and write at grade level by the end of the third
grade, only 54 percent of high school students graduated and just 38 percent enrolled in
I can show you how to get all of the children in Newark’s schools to become proficient
readers, dramatically increase the rate of graduation, and increase the percentage of
students enrolling in college.
I recently received a testimonial from a teacher in Florida who has been using
Alpha-Phonics for the last ten years, and he has literally performed miracles with some of
the worst readers in his classes. I can state without any equivocation, that I can produce
a miracle in Newark if permitted by you to do so. I am enclosing this teacher’s
remarkable testimony of the power of this program.
The “miracle” that Alpha-Phonics performs is really no miracle at all. It is simply the
sensible and proper use of a primary program that puts the emphasis on the development
of the right side of the brain, the language faculty. Today’s schools force children to use
their right brains to perform the functions of the left brain, thereby actually deforming the
children’s brains. This phenomenon can be seen by extensive brain scans conducted by
neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene, author of Reading in the Brain. In other words,
common teaching practices in our schools are actually deforming the brains of our
children. And that is why the children act out, knowing that something harmful, which
they can’t understand, is being done to them.
All children are born with a dominant language faculty in their left brains. When the
continued natural development of this faculty is thwarted by faulty teaching methods, you
get educational problems. You get ADD and ADHD. I would like to show you how it is
possible to reverse this process and get kids back into a positive learning mode. I propose
a pilot project whereby I am given the worst elementary school in Newark and allowed to
demonstrate how it can become the best school in the city in about eight months.
Although I have lived in New England since 1965, I know Newark well. My sister lived
there with her husband and children, and as a teenager I spent many pleasant summer
weeks on leafy Elwood Place. I know that Newark today is not what it once was: the
safest, most pleasant place to live in America. But I am more than willing to do
whatever I can to assist you in making Newark’s schools the best in the nation.
I hope you will take me up on my offer. This is an opportunity that Newark can’t afford
Samuel L. Blumenfeld
Cc: Governor Chris Christie, Mark Zuckerberg: Startup Education
A link to the letter from the Blumenfeld Archives: